Concept-based Curriculum Design: A Focus on Depth over Breadth

Curriculum Design

In traditional curriculum design, educators often focus on covering as much content as possible within a set timeframe. This approach, known as a “mile-wide, inch-deep” curriculum, can leave students feeling overwhelmed and lacking in-depth understanding of the material. Concept-based curriculum design offers an alternative approach that prioritizes depth over breadth.

What is Concept-Based Curriculum Design?

Concept-based curriculum design is an approach that focuses on organizing content around broad, transferable concepts. These concepts serve as the foundation for learning, allowing students to develop a deep understanding of the material and apply it in a variety of contexts.

For example, in a science class, rather than simply memorizing a list of facts about photosynthesis, students might focus on the broader concept of energy transformation. This approach encourages students to think critically, make connections between concepts, and develop a deeper understanding of the material.

The Benefits of Concept-Based Curriculum Design

There are several benefits to using concept-based curriculum design in the classroom:

  • Deeper understanding: By focusing on broad concepts, students are able to develop a deeper understanding of the material.
  • Transferable skills: Because students are learning transferable concepts, they are able to apply their knowledge in a variety of contexts.
  • Engagement: Concept-based learning encourages critical thinking and inquiry, which can lead to increased student engagement.
  • Preparation for real-world challenges: In the real world, problems are rarely neatly packaged in subject-specific categories. Concept-based learning helps prepare students for the complex challenges they will face in their future careers.

Implementing Concept-Based Curriculum Design

Implementing concept-based curriculum design requires careful planning and collaboration among educators. Some key steps include:

  • Identifying the most important concepts: Educators should work together to identify the broad, transferable concepts that will serve as the foundation for the curriculum.
  • Developing essential questions: Essential questions can help guide student inquiry and encourage critical thinking.
  • Designing assessments: Assessments should be aligned with the broad concepts and essential questions to ensure that students are developing a deep understanding of the material.
  • Supporting student inquiry: Teachers should provide opportunities for students to explore and make connections between concepts through inquiry-based learning activities.

Concept-based curriculum design offers a powerful alternative to traditional, mile-wide, inch-deep approaches to education. By focusing on broad, transferable concepts, educators can help students develop a deep understanding of the material, transferable skills, and prepare them for the complex challenges of the real world. While implementing concept-based curriculum design requires careful planning and collaboration, the benefits for both educators and students are clear.