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Strategy Entry 1 July 19, 2013

Strategy Description.

My instructional strategy for this first entry is Concept Attainment. This model 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)

The specific stages of a Concept Attainment lesson are lesson preparation, introduction of exemplars and nonexemplars, generating hypotheses, testing and affirming hypotheses, and analyzing the cognitive road map. While veteran teachers often are able to effectively deliver instruction on the fly, it is important that all teachers develop a comprehensive list of exemplars and nonexemplars during the lesson preparation stage. Careful attention should be given to crafting lists that present a variety of attributes, but only a select few that are shared according to the featured category. They should also be sequenced to encourage hypotheses generating.

As students begin to generate hypotheses they should be encouraged to engage in discussion with their peers and rationalize their suggestions as they explain their thinking. The recorded hypothesis should be one that reflects group agreement.

The last of these stages, analyzing the cognitive road map, serves to promote higher order thinking skills such as analyzing and evaluating. (Churches, 2013) This stage is often met with resistance by students at first and is seen as an unnecessary “been there, done that” step. If this step is presented thoughtfully by the teacher, however, students will soon view it as a fun opportunity to articulate how a “detective teacher” might piece together a thought process that will lead to identifying the correct category. (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2007, p. 125)

Research Elements

  • Inductive strategies such as concept attainment motivates students using their natural enjoyment of solving puzzles. (Dean, C. B., et al. 2012)
  • Inductive strategies such as concept attainment  provide students with practice using critical thinking skills such as those found in the analysis and evaluation domains of Blooms Revised Taxonomy (Dell’Olio, 2007; Reed, 2011)
  • Joyce and Calhoun state that metacognition during the last stage provides benefits to all members of the group. (as cited in Dell’Olio, 2007)
  • Students spend much of the lesson in discourse about content ideas. Nuthall & Alton-Lee (as cited in Dell’Olio, 2007) have found that the longer students interact with lesson content the more effective the learning.
  • Tennyson and Cocchiarella (as cited in Dell’Olio, 2007) have shown that students are more successful when explicit and clear exemplars are presented at the beginning and the more obscure exemplars occur later in the lesson.

Implementation Notes

  1. Prepare thoroughly for concept attainment lessons:
    1. Create exemplar and nonexemplar  lists of words ahead of time.
    2. Craft the exemplar list first with items at the beginning that clearly exemplify the critical attributes. More thought provoking exemplars can occur later in the lesson.
    3. Pair the exemplars together with nonexemplars.
    4. Plan sequential steps to the lesson but be prepared to be flexible as you monitor and adjust to student responses.
    5. When students are first learning this learning strategy, try to keep the number of common characteristics in the exemplar list to a minimum.
    6. Remind students to keep their guesses to themselves until the appropriate time.
    7. Have students articulate the common characteristics shared in the exemplar list and generate hypotheses.
    8. Test the hypotheses against additional exemplars to affirm or reject it.
    9. Approach the analyzing stage of this process from the perspective of solving a puzzle – engage students in an exercise of “sleuthing” and create a map of student thought processes as they attempted to solve the puzzle.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-yJom5x87M – This is a youtube link showing a teacher using concept attainment to define a story character.

Concept Attainment Chart– This link will bring you to a Content Attainment Chart (original artifact). This chart can be used as a work sheet for students during the lesson. It is meant to support individual students and groups during the analysis stage of the content attainment lesson. Notes made on this document can track the thought processes of group members and/or the group as a whole as they work collaboratively.

http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/cattain/ – This link will take you to Instructional Strategies Online. Here you can read a description of concept attainment, advantages, sequential steps, a sample lesson, and explore other links that support this strategy. This website is maintained by Saskatoon Public Schools.

Literature Resources

Churches, A. (2013). Blooms Digital Taxonomy. In Educational Origami. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+TaxonomyDell’Olio, J. M., Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

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

Reid, B. (2011). The Concept Attainment Strategy: Inductive Lessons on Arachnids and Isomers. Science Teacher78(1), 51-55.


One Response to “Strategy Entry 1”

  1. Leslie, this blog is well laid out and easy to read. I can follow your thought process and see how the research you have cited and resources support your post. Nice work!

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