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Fundamental & Powerful

Concepts

Purpose
To organize concepts within a particular
course
To identify teaching strategies that put
fundamental and powerful concepts at the
center of student learning

Reviewing F&P Concepts

What is a fundamental and powerful


concept? How do you know if a concept is
fundamental and powerful?

A fundamental and powerful concept is one that


can be used to explain or think out a huge body
of questions, problems, information, and
situations. All fields have f&p concepts, but there
are a relatively small number of them in any
particular area. They are the most central and
useful ideas in the discipline. They are to be
contrasted with individual bits of information, or
with less general concepts.
--Nosich, Learning to Think Things Through (2005), p. 104

[I]f you can understand the f&p concepts


in a deep way, you are in a position to
understand a great deal of the rest of the
course (Nosich).
If a student understands the concept deeply,
then is it true that he/she will understand the
rest of the discipline more deeply?
Will focusing on this concept help the student
work through any problem or question that
arises in the course?

Identifying Course Concepts


Read through a textbook used in one of your
courses and count the key terms the text
identifies.
How many of those key terms do you expect
your students to understand deeply?
Do you expect them to retain that understanding
after the course?
What are the most important terms/concepts in
your course?

Example: Earth Science


Earth Science charts: Chart 1.doc, Chart 2.doc
The three f&p concepts are identified at the
bottom or middle of the chart: movement of
plates, energy of the sun, composition of earth
(air, rock, water)
Students should be able to explain any concept
of the course (from any level in the chart) in
terms of the f&p concepts at the bottom (or
center) of the chart.

Organizing Your Course Concepts


Using one of the blank charts below,
outline the structure of concepts and
topics in your course, from the most basic
f&p concepts to more specialized and
detailed concepts. Create at least three
levels.
Copy of Chart 1.doc
Copy of Chart 2.DOC

Restructuring Your Course


How will you restructure
your teaching so as to
put a deep
understanding of the
f&p concepts at the
center of student
learning?

assignments
group work
tests
reading
projects
presentations
homework
writing
etc.

Write down three specific changes you


can make in the way you teach your
course.
Make changes that are as structural as
possible.
References
Gerald Nosich, Learning to Think Things
Through