The following educational approaches are intended to support the teaching and further development of Navigator’s curriculum.
Learners have beliefs about how the world works based on their experiences and prior learning. Those beliefs, models or constructs are revisited and revised in the light of new experiences and further learning. As we strive to make meaning of our lives and the world around us we travel continually on the cyclic path of constructing, testing, and confirming or revising our personal models of how the world works. (SACSA, 2007)
When planning to teach it is important to ascertain students’ prior knowledge, and provide experiences through the curriculum and through the environment that give them opportunities: to test and revise their models, to allow them to make connections between their previous and current perceptions, to allow them the freedom to construct their own meaning. (IBO, 2007)
Concepts and Transdisciplinary Approach
At Navigator it is our endeavor that concepts will underpin student inquiries throughout the curriculum.
A concept is a mental construct that is timeless, universal and abstract. They can also be described as significant ideas or enduring understandings. These concepts provide a structure for the exploration of significant and authentic content. In the course of this exploration, students deepen their understanding of the concepts. (IBO, 2007)
It is recognized that these concepts have different interpretations and applications as students develop and deepen their understanding across each key learning area.
Some reasons for aiming to develop a concept driven curriculum are:
- Education for the understanding of significant ideas has often been sacrificed for the memorization of isolated facts and the mastery of skills out of context.
- The expansion of the curriculum and the pressure to cover the syllabus have resulted in many students leaving school with superficial levels of understanding.
- By starting with the students’ prior knowledge, and by confronting and developing their earlier conceptions and constructs, teachers can begin to promote real understanding.
- The exploration and re-exploration of concepts lead students towards an appreciation of ideas that transcend disciplinary boundaries, as well as towards a sense of the essence of each subject area.
- Students gradually work towards a deepening of their conceptual understanding as they approach those concepts from a range of perspectives.
- Units, where concepts are used to support and structure the inquiries, provide a context in which students can understand and, at the same time, acquire essential knowledge, skills, attributes and abilities.
- A concept-driven curriculum helps the learner to construct meaning through improved critical thinking and the transfer of knowledge.
Inquiry is understood as allowing students to be actively involved in their own learning and to take responsibility for that learning.
Inquiry, interpreted in the broadest sense, is the process initiated by the students or the teacher that moves the students from their current level of understanding to a new and deeper level of understanding.
Inquiry allows each student’s understanding of the world to develop in a manner and at a rate that is unique to that student. It is recognized that there is a role for drill and practice in the classroom. Yet it is felt that teaching to the fullest extent possible through units that are concept based leads to the most substantial and enduring learning.
What does inquiry look like?
- Exploring, wondering and questioning;
- Experimenting and playing with possibilities;
- Making connections between previous learning and current learning;
- Making predictions and acting purposefully to see what happens;
- Collecting data and reporting findings;
- Clarifying existing ideas and reappraising perceptions of events;
- Deepening understanding through the application of a concept;
- Making and testing theories;
- Researching and seeking information;
- Taking and defending a position;
- Solving problems in a variety of ways.
Many different forms of inquiry are recognized, based on students’ genuine curiosity and on their wanting and needing to know more about the world. It is most successful when students’ questions and inquiries are genuine/honest and have real significance in moving them in a substantial way to new levels of knowledge and understanding. The most insightful inquiries, ones most likely to move the students’ understanding further, come from existing knowledge.
The structure of the learning environments, including the home, the classroom, the school and the community, and the behaviour modelled by others in that environment, particularly by the parent and the teacher, will lay down the knowledge foundation that will nurture meaningful participation and inquiry on the part of the students.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice
In using Navigator’s curriculum, teachers should constantly take into account what students should learn and be able to do on the basis of what is best for their development in the long term, rather than simply on the basis of what works in the short term. It should be based on each student’s needs, interests and competencies.
This developmental approach takes into account:
- The characteristics, capabilities and interests that are normal for the age group;
- The different rates at which students learn and the wide range of normal variation that can occur in an age group;
- That individual patterns of development are complex and not simply sequential;
- That learning is a balance between the intellectual, the social and the personal; each is important and each is interlinked with the others;
- That the maturity of each student depends on the developmental stages he or she has already gone through, and the effects of earlier positive and negative feedback.