Here’s a quick experiment:
Look at the below chess board for 5 seconds and then look away. No cheating.
Now try to reconstruct the board in your mind. How many pieces can you correctly place?
Now answer this question: do you play chess?
What does this have to do with concepts-based teaching and learning?
Chances are your level of expertise in chess affected your ability to recall the pieces on the board. The full description of the study is below, but here’s the basic idea:
If you understand chess, you saw a pattern in how the pieces were organized. An expert sees the board and sees how the rules of game are creating a certain outcome. Without an understanding of the principles of chess. a novice has to memorize each piece individually.
Teaching concepts gives students the mental framework to make meaning out of what would otherwise be random information. Understanding the concepts and principles that organize information allows students to see meaningful patterns instead of discrete bits of information. Thus teaching through a conceptual framework means students can both remember and use new learning more efficiently.
The tweetable phrase: Knowing the rules of game matters.
The full study from How Students Learn:
In one study, a chess master, a Class A player (good but not a master), and a novice were given 5 seconds to view a chess board position from the middle of a chess game (see below).
After 5 seconds the board was covered, and each participant at- tempted to reconstruct the board position on another board. This proce- dure was repeated for multiple trials until everyone received a perfect score. On the first trial, the master player correctly placed many more pieces than the Class A player, who in turn placed more than the novice: 16, 8, and 4, respectively. (See data graphed below.)
However, these results occurred only when the chess pieces were arranged in configurations that conformed to meaningful games of chess. When chess pieces were randomized and presented for 5 seconds, the recall of the chess master and Class A player was the same as that of the novice—they all placed 2 to 3 positions correctly. The apparent difference in memory capacity is due to a difference in pattern recognition. What the expert can remember as a single meaningful pattern, novices must re- member as separate, unrelated items.