Concepts in the PYP: Keys to Student Understanding
What is the difference between knowing something and understanding it? “To know” is simply to recall something you have learned from memory, but to understand something you have to be able to apply or transfer that knowledge across different contexts and situations. Understanding is a deeper form of learning, while knowledge can easily be forgotten.
The Primary Years Program curriculum helps students develop lasting understandings by exposing them to key and related concepts. Concepts put the skills and knowledge students learn at school into a meaningful context. Since the PYP is committed to an inquiry-based approach to student learning, the PYP key concepts are often expressed in question form.
The PYP Key Concepts
Form - "What is it like?"
Function - "How does it work?"
Causation - "Why is it like it is?"
Change - "How is it changing?"
Connection - "How is it connected to other things?"
Perspective - "What are the different points of view?"
Responsibility - "What is our responsibility?"
Concepts are a “key” to unlocking student understanding of the body of knowledge represented across subject areas. Related concepts are "related" to the PYP key concepts and are often more focused on the content of specific subject areas.
An example from the Colorado State Standards
For example, the Colorado State Science Standards expect that students will "make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems that require understanding how and why Earth is constantly changing.” A concept like “patterns” can be used to help students attach this knowledge to the understanding that patterns help us predict natural processes and conditions, using weather patterns and human preparation for weather-related hazards as examples. This same understanding could also be applied to student’s future explorations of patterns in the development of ecosystems, the functioning of our solar system and energy. The concept of "patterns " is related to the key concepts of "form" and "function" and is also very relevant to students' understanding of art, music, mathematics, history and language.
Concepts and the PYP transdisciplinary themes
Concept-driven learning not only helps students develop understandings of broader PYP transdisciplinary themes such as “How the world works” and “Where we are in place and time”, it also helps students to be come critical thinkers and to view learning as something that has lasting meaning for their lives, rather than as a list of isolated facts to be memorized and skills to perform. Concepts put learning into a context that is meaningful for students.