Covid has opened up new possibilities for concept-driven learning

Now is the time to teach sustainability in new ways that produce ‘educated optimists’

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Most of the earliest COVID-19 cases can likely be traced to a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan selling wild animals. The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted our relationship with the natural world. The tragic and needless loss of biodiversity and the threat of extinction of potentially a billion species is alarming. Sir David Attenborough closed ‘Extinction: the facts’ with an optimistic tone, “what happens next is up to every one of us”. What could this mean for Education and the Curriculum?

Subject disciplines such as Geography may traditionally ‘cover’ some of the issues raised in the BBC documentary. For example, AQA GCSE Geography mandates discrete units on Climate Change, Ecosystems – leading to content on Tropical Rainforest deforestation and desertification. Curriculum, lessons and pedagogies can often be one dimensional, using a know-do approach to instruction. A Geography lesson may include the cause of climate change in one lesson, jump to the impacts in the next and there we end. 

This shallow, sequential and assessment orientated approach to curriculum does not lend itself to a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of our world. For today’s learners to have a deeper understanding of how the world works there must be a three dimensional approach, facilitating a deeper exploration and understanding of relationships at ever increasing levels of scale. One route we can take to help foster this is taking an interdisciplinary approach (IDL), weaving together knowledge from the disciplines in a unified study to recognise complexity, and enable a deeper understanding. We argue that we must take this further, drawing interdisciplinary threads together to a central anchor point, that of Concepts.

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