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Concept Attainment July 16, 2013

Concept Attainment is an instructional strategy that fosters inductive thinking wherein students observe and analyze exemplars (or examples) of objects or ideas that go together in some way. The goal is to have students create, test, and affirm hypotheses that state the possible category that is relevant to the exemplars. (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2007, p.112)

I was particularly interested in our discussions and work with Concept Attainment this week as this instructional strategy can be applied across content areas.  Our text by Dell’Olio & Donk (2007) presented a case study where a Second Grade teacher used this strategy to guide students to understand the properties of a liquid. Christy Parry (2013) suggested that Concept Attainment would be useful to introduce spelling patterns or rules. It would also be effective when teaching about characters in literature or number patterns in math.

Concept Attainment provides a forum through which students can gain new knowledge and perspectives by listening to and engaging with peers during the analysis phase of the lesson. As Dell’Olio and Donk put it (2007, p. 134) “This analysis of metacognitive strategies has a collective benefit…”  It also offers numerous opportunities for the application higher order thinking skills, particularly the analyzing and evaluating levels of Blooms Revised Taxonomy (Churches, 2013)

As I delved more into how Concept Attainment could be used in my classroom I became interested in how the students themselves could track their thought processes as well as those of their classmates on their own recording sheets. I created a Concept Attainment Chart as a means for them to record the trail the group has followed to discover an acceptable hypothesis. These sheets could also be used by students as they engage in Concept Attainment activities with partners or individually.

Dr. Williams’ lecture (2013) presented Concept Attainment as a model that helps students understand the “big ideas” or themes of a discipline. The nature of concept attainment provides a context for students to make connections between the many pieces of information that they already know. It also enables them to make connections between known information and new information. It guides them to “explore characteristics of items and their memberships in various categories.” (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2007, p. 112). My instructional setting involves kindergarten students. A common vehicle we use to deliver instruction is centers. As I read the material and listened to Dr. William’s lecture for this module I initially likened this use of the educational concept of “themes” to the “centers” I currently use in my setting. I soon realized that there are some very fundamental differences in themes as they are seen from a concept attainment perspective and themes as they are used in a “centers” situation in my classroom. There was not a whole lot of attention given to ensuring that the concepts and understandings obtained in centers were connected in a meaningful way as described above. The only connection that was emphasized was how it related to the seasonal theme assigned to that time period, such as Valentines Day, Halloween, Apples, etc. I will definitely have some revising to do to make student learning during this time more relevant. Some of the examples given in Dr. Williams’ lecture of themes that are conducive to concept attainment are cause/effect, commonality/diversity, systems/patterns, and cycles/change.


Churches, A. (2013). Blooms Digital Taxonomy. In Educational Origami. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy

Dell’Olio, J. M., Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Parry, C. (2013, July 15). Different types of learners. Message posted to https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_74199_1%26url%3D

Williams, T. (2013, July). Concept attainment. Survey of instructional strategies. Lecture conducted from Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA


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