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Concept formation is a classification activity that leads the students to use item characteristics for classification. It develops their abilities to observe items thoroughly and to make useful observations. It also helps them to discover methods of classification. These skills are useful in social science also. All people classify. It is what humans do. All objects, actions, processes can be classified in one way or another. So

    * concept formation is  how people organize and classify events, usually to solve problems
    * much of a child’s learning involves classification or separating dissimilar events, finding commonalities, and then grouping similar items together.

Purpose :
The purpose of concept formation as a teaching strategy is to have the students examine carefully some objects/actions/processes, and to think about a method for classifying them. Both observation and classification are important to humans in all cultures. Indeed, the more carefully the students observe, the more interesting the questions they will come up with.

Aim :
Concept formation helps us to disregard what is inessential by creating idealized structures that focus on what is essential.

Encourages certain of the Common Essential Learnings like critical and creative thinking, communication, and independent learning.

Inculcates personal and social values and skills amongst the students if they work in a positive way with their peers.

The Process:
    1. Divide the students into small groups.

    2. Provide the students with a number of items to classify. These items could be real objects, ideas, or words. Students will find it easiest to work with real objects.

    3. Ask the students to organize the items into groups according to characteristics of their choice. Make it clear to the students that they will have to explain their grouping rationale. (Note: if you want your students to group according to certain criteria, identify the criteria for them.)

    4. When classification is complete, have each group explain their grouping rationale to the class and show which groups contain which items.

    5. In order to have the students evaluate the general usefulness of their grouping rationale, provide them with other items to see if they can be fit into the established groups.

Examining the grouping rationale provided by the students will enable the teacher to detect flaws in their thinking about the concept that is to be learned.


    * Identify a concept that you plan to teach (e.g. civic responsibility)
    * Create 4 examples of the concept using a plus sign (+) or a smiley face to indicate that it is an example of the concept.
          o Obeying laws
          o Paying taxes
          o  Casting vote
          o Taking care of public property.

    * Create three non examples of the concept using a negative sign (-) or a frowning face to indicate that it is a non-example.
          o Acting as an anti social element
          o Speaking freely against everyone
          o Polluting our surroundings.
    * Present examples and non-examples one at a time in alternating progression.Have the students guess what the concept is as each example or non-example is presented.

    * Do not reveal the concept until all examples and non-examples have been presented.

    * Use the positive examples to flesh out the qualities or definition of the concept.

So the concept is civic responsibility.

Difference between concept attainment and concept formation:
A concept formation is, in some ways, the opposite of a concept attainment. Where in a concept attainment, the teacher gives the students examples of objects/actions/processes already classified the way she/he wants them to classify them. In concept formation, the teacher gives the students a lot of objects/actions/processes, and the students choose how to classify them.

As with concept attainment, concept formation is best done in small groups.

Difference between concept learning and concept formation
“Psychologists use the term concept formation, or concept learning, to refer to the development of the ability to respond to common features of categories of objects or events. Concepts are mental categories for objects, events, or ideas that have a common set of features”

Concept learning encompasses learning how to discriminate and categorize things (with critical attributes). It also involves recall of instances, integration of new examples and sub-categorization. Concept formation is not related to simple recall, it must be constructed.

Instructional Strategies for concept formation


Independent learning involves "planned independent study by students under the guidance or supervision of a classroom teacher". It may involve one or more of the following strategies:

    * Assigned questions
    * Computer assisted instruction
    * Correspondence lessons
    * Essays
    * Homework
    * Learning activity packages
    * Learning centres
    * Learning contracts
    * Research projects

Independent study is an important instructional strategy because it is designed to foster self-sufficiency and the acquisition of lifelong learning skills.


Students involved in independent learning are often highly motivated by the opportunity to explore topics that are of interest to them. Students can capitalize on their strengths while improving areas of weakness. Independent study is especially valuable in a classroom where students' knowledge, skills, and abilities vary widely.


For independent study to be successful, students require a degree of maturity and the ability to work with a minimum of supervision. Independent study is most effective when the teacher accurately assesses the students' abilities to take on the responsibility for learning and assists the students in structuring tasks and projects of appropriate difficulty for each individual student.


Direct instruction is a teacher-centred approach. While often overused, it is an effective instructional strategy when the teacher's goal is to:

    * Provide information
    * Teach standard procedures
    * Develop step-by-step skills

Direct instruction involves the following strategies:

    * Demonstrations: A demonstration refers to a "teacher activity and talk that shows students "how".

    * Didactic questions: "Questioning is employed to guide learning. The purpose of questioning is to bring out or draw out a response from students that can help them bring forth their own ideas. Active questioning can assist students in accessing and connecting previous knowledge and in promoting critical and creative thinking. It can alert the teacher to students' needs and understandings, reinforce self-esteem, and can assist with developing a positive climate in the classroom. The teacher may develop a checklist to guide the questioning procedure. Didactic questions can be used to effectively diagnose recall and comprehension and to draw on prior learning experiences." They are "questions that tend to be convergent (i.e. they tend to focus on one topic), factual, and often beginning with "what", "where", "when", "how".

    * Drill and practice: Drill and practice "refers to the structured, repetitive review of previously learned concepts to a predetermined level of mastery."

    * Explicit teaching: Explicit teaching involves "six teaching functions:

        * presenting new material
        * conducting guided practice
        * provide feedback and correctives
        * conduct independent practice
        * daily, weekly and monthly review.

    * Mastery Lecture: Mastery lecture is a type of direct instruction. A significant amount of information can be communicated in a relatively short period of time. The quality of a lecture improves when audio and visual aids are incorporated and if interaction between the teacher and the students is facilitated. Given today's technologies, mastery lecture is easy to accomplish on-line.

    * Guides for reading, listening, and viewing: Guides for reading, listening, and viewing refer to "providing leading questions, diagrams, or statements to assist students in focusing on the important ideas within text, lecture, media, or other presentations."

    * Structured overview: A structured overview "refers to organizing and arranging topics or concepts to make them meaningful to students."

When used appropriately, direct instruction enables the teacher to communicate complex knowledge/information at the students' level.

    * Direct instruction also allows the teacher to present information that is not readily available to the students from other sources or by other means.
    * It may also be an excellent way for a teacher to communicate enthusiasm for the subject and arouse the students' interest.
    * A teacher may use direct instruction to focus the students' attention on relevant content and to assist the students in connecting new information to current knowledge and past experiences.


    * Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of direct instruction is the inappropriate use of the methods: teachers fail to appreciate that there are limitations to the methods of direct instruction.
    * Direct instruction is limited in its ability to help students to fully develop their abilities to think critically and to work well in a group setting.

Thus, direct instruction should be seen as one of a number of strategies that may be effectively employed by teachers.

Interactive instruction may include:
1. Brainstorming : Brainstorming is a strategy for generating creative ideas and solutions. It is thinking that is definitely "outside the box." Because its focus is the generating, not the evaluating, of ideas, brainstorming works especially well in groups. An idea offered by one individual may inspire ideas in others in the group, which in turn inspires more ideas. To brainstorm effectively, a number of guidelines should be followed:

    * Clearly define the topic of the brainstorm.
    * Make the rules clear i.e.
    * every idea is welcome, no matter how unusual or improbable,
    * every idea is recorded,
    * being inspired by others’ ideas is desired.
    * Have a volunteer write down the ideas for all to see.

2. Circle of Knowledge: A circle of knowledge "involves each student in thinking and discussing with a peer before sharing ideas with a large group."

3. Cooperative learning groups:
Cooperative learning groups "are heterogeneous with respect to student characteristics and have two to six members sharing the various roles. Group members are interdependent in achieving the group learning goal."

4. Debate: Debate is an oral exchange of ideas through a specified structure.

5. Discussion: Discussion begins with the selection of a problem or issue. This issue may or may not have a particular solution. The problem or issue being discussed should be "based on material familiar to students and should conclude with consensus, a solution, clarification of insights gained, or a summary."

6. Interviewing: Interviewing, a meeting during which information is obtained by one person from another, is an excellent means for students to gain an insight into another's worldview. Effective on-line interviewing, like face-to-face interviewing, begins with the development of basic skills and thorough preparation. Students may be the interviewer or the interviewee, depending upon the skill set being developed and the information sought.

7. Lab groups: Lab groups are "cooperative learning groups in an experimental setting."

8. Panels: Panels are "small groups that individually discuss an issue in front of the rest of the class under the direction of a moderator."

9. Peer Practice: Peer practice "involves each student rehearsing skills or conceptual information with a peer."

10. Problem solving: Problem-solving, or problem-based learning, is a constructivist approach that promotes student involvement and active learning. This instructional strategy uses real-world problems as the organizational focus of student learning. In problem-solving, students are self-directed learners while the teacher acts as facilitator.

11. Role play: Taking on roles and interacting in groups actively involves students in learning opportunities. By taking on a perspective other than their own, students begin to appreciate the beliefs, wants and needs, and motivations of others while trying to find creative and effective solutions to challenges.

12.  Tutorial Groups: "Tutorial groups are set up to help students who need remediation or additional practice, or for students who can benefit from enrichment. A tutorial group is usually led by the teacher. Tutorial groups provide for greater attention to individual needs and allow students to participate more actively. Peer tutoring occurs when a student (the tutor) is assigned to help other students (the learners). The roles played by teacher, tutor, and learner must be explained and expectations for behaviour must be outlined."

Interactive instruction provides opportunities for students to interact with peers, experts, and their teachers in such a manner as to improve their social skills as well as their abilities to assess information and structure an effective response to the information.

The interaction is often highly motivating for students. The opportunity to interact with others broadens the educational experience of the students and takes them beyond the limitations of the traditional classroom and the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the individual teacher.

It is heavily dependent upon the expertise of the teacher in structuring and developing the dynamics of the group.

Indirect instruction is a learning-centred teaching strategy. It promotes student involvement in the learning process and, in doing so, fosters true learning for understanding. It includes the following among its strategies:

A. Case study: A case study is a story, told with a wealth of accurate, detailed information, which offers students the opportunity to:

    * evaluate the information provided for importance and relevance,
    * identify the problem situation and recognize the particulars relevant in defining the problem,
    * formulate possible solutions for the problem,
    * evaluate the possible solutions, selecting one solution,
    * create a plan of action for implementing the chosen solution, and
    * anticipate obstacles to the successful implementation of the solution.

Case studies provide an opportunity to structure constructivist learning activities which actively engage the students. The challenge of a case study results in students not only learning content, but also, importantly, in students learning through practicing critical skills including inductive reasoning, writing, and discussing.

B. Cloze procedure: Cloze procedure originated as a diagnostic reading assessment technique. In a cloze procedure, every nth word is deleted from a selected reading. Students are then asked to read the passage, inserting a word into each blank to create a meaningful reading. Because cloze procedure encourages the reader to be actively involved with the reading of the material and to link the new information being learned with information previously learned, cloze procedure may be used effectively in the classroom for purposes other than reading assessment. Cloze sheets may be used to ensure that students thoroughly read assigned work instead of merely skimming, as a way for a teacher to indicate to students which terms and concepts are key to understanding the passage, to provide students with reading study guides.

C. Concept attainment: Concept attainment is an indirect instructional strategy that compels students to identify distinguishing characteristics of a given item or concept. Because students are discovering information for themselves, this constructivist activity will enhance your students' learning. This process could be carried out using pictures or actual items.

D. Concept Mapping: It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. A concept map is a graphic representation of a network of concepts with links revealing patterns and relationships between the concepts.

E. Inquiry: Inquiry method is a process of asking and answering some key questions. It is a method in which the students generate their own knowledge. Inquiry is an Indirect Instructional Strategy that promotes active, self-directed learning. Through the process, the student learns to think critically and to problem-solve, while also discovering course content. Because the student is "in charge" of his or her own learning, inquiry fosters a sense of ownership and a high degree of involvement. The teacher takes the role of facilitator and mentor.

F. Problem Solving: Problem-solving, or problem-based learning, is a constructivist approach that promotes student involvement and active learning. This instructional strategy uses real-world problems as the organizational focus of student learning. In problem-solving, students are self-directed learners while the teacher acts as facilitator.

G. Reading for meaning: Reading for meaning is an indirect instructional method in which the reader reads with the intent of understanding the information presented; that is, the reader interprets the material to construct meaning within the context of the text. A key part of this process is making connections between what is already known and what is new. Such reading is a very active process; the reader actually interacts with the text as he or she works to deduce meaning, to make predictions and conclusions, and to evaluate the new ideas presented in light of their existing knowledge. When reading for meaning, the reader actually monitors his or her own understanding and takes steps to maximize comprehension. Such a reader acts strategically to find meaning in everything that is read.

H. Reflective study: While reflective study may take many forms(reflective writing or reflective discussion) , the purpose of the work is for the student to learn more about himself or herself.

    * Because of its constructivist nature, indirect instruction has the advantage of making the student an active learner. Learning is something that is "done by" the student, not "done to" the student, as the teacher moves from the role of instructor to one of facilitator.
    * Indirect instruction enhances creativity and helps to develop problem-solving skills.
    * Its resource-based nature brings depth and breadth to the learning experience.

    * Because indirect instruction is learning-centred, it may take more class time to accomplish learning goals than when direct instruction is utilized.
    * As facilitator, the teacher must give control of the learning to the students, which may initially be uncomfortable.
    * There is also more of a challenge involved in ensuring that the students do accomplish the required learning objectives.


Experiential learning is constructivist learning, where students are active learners, constructing their own knowledge, rather than observing the demonstrative behavior of a teacher. Such learning may involve one or more of the following instructional strategies:

a. Experiments: Experiment is a test or procedure carried out under controlled conditions to determine the validity of a hypothesis or make a discovery.

b. Field observations: Field observations refer to "observations made of naturally occurring phenomena by students outside the classroom."

c. Field trips: A field trip refers to "student activity that is conducted for an educational purpose outside the classroom."

d. Focused imaging: Focused imaging "enables students to relax and allow their imaginations to take them on journeys, to "experience" situations first hand, and to respond with their senses to the mental images formed.

e. Games: Games are structured learning activities that "include conflict, control, and rules for winning and terminating the activities."

f. Model building: Model building "involves the students in the design and construction of a theory, concept, or object."

g. Role play: Taking on roles and interacting in groups actively involves students in learning opportunities. By taking on a perspective other than their own, students begin to appreciate the beliefs, wants and needs, and motivations of others while trying to find creative and effective solutions to challenges. Role plays may be highly structured by the teacher or may be of a more spontaneous nature.

h. Simulation: "Simulations and games are teaching and learning methods in which participants are directly involved in making decisions and learning from the outcomes of these. Their active, student centred nature means that they are memorable and highly motivating.

i. Surveys: A survey is a research instrument which involves the asking of questions of a group of individuals. Creating and administering a survey, as well as analyzing the data collected are all excellent opportunities for students to be active learners.

j. Synectics: Synectics is a problem solving method that involves "the creative thinking of a group of people from different areas of experience and knowledge". What is unique about synectics is that it employs the use of metaphor and analogy to spark creativity.


    * Because experiential learning is active learning, students more readily understand what they are learning and thus retain the knowledge to a greater degree than when merely having information presented to them by another.
    * The hands-on nature of experiential learning is highly motivating for students.

Experiential learning is time and resource intensive and often requires considerable effort on the teacher's part to organize. However, the educational impact of experiential learning makes the strategy an important one for teachers and students alike.

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