Key Concepts and Concept-Based Learning

Key concepts help teachers and students to consider ways of thinking and learning about the world, and act as a provocation to extend and deepen student inquiries. The decision to structure the PYP curriculum around important concepts is driven by the following beliefs.

  • 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 leads 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.
  • Transdisciplinary 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 and skills.
  • A concept-driven curriculum helps the learner to construct meaning through improved critical thinking and the transfer of knowledge.

  • Transdisciplinary concepts increase coherence across the curriculum.

The key concepts used in the PYP are:
  • 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 points of view?
  • responsibility What is our responsibility?