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Frequently Asked Questions

No, the BCP does not aim to teach all conceptual content but rather to provide a model for teaching concepts. Mediators who implement the programme and understand the Basic Concepts Teaching Model are able to transfer it to the classroom and their general teaching to teach other curriculum concepts.

The curriculum is content-focused and allows little time for concept mastery.  There is a fundamental misconception about how children learn and the role of conceptual development in children’s cognitive development.

For example, how would one explain to a child what addition is if one does not make reference to other conceptual understandings (e.g. more, less, making more, making less, symbol for addition, symbol for subtraction). Without conceptual understanding learning is reduced to a mechanical and often meaningless activity.

This probably means that the learner does not understand the concept. In the Basic Concepts Programme© the child’s understanding of conceptual knowledge is assessed using four criteria.:

i) naming,
ii) identification,
iii) representation and
iv) verbal expression of understanding.

The third and fourth criteria also require that the concept be related to other knowledge systems. Conceptual understanding takes time to evolve and to crystallize. Thus an assessment of conceptual understanding that focuses only on the superficial dimensions of naming and physically identifying the concept would not fully assess whether a concept has been attained.

Yes, all children can learn to conceptualize, no matter how cognitively impaired they are. It might however be that their categories need to be simpler and that they need more time to develop conceptual understandings. The process of conceptual development in all children should not be taken for granted or left to chance. It requires the mediational and relational abilities of a trained mediator to sensitively guide and systematically develop conceptual understanding.

Educators might take pity on children with cognitive impairments and believe that they should be left alone with few demands made of them. To have expectations for such children might seem unfair to some, but  it is the children who make significantly more progress than those whose ‘condition’ is passively accepted.

Basic concepts are indeed an integral aspect of all classroom teaching be it in explicit teaching of concepts or the use of conceptual language in all teaching.

While learners might already have knowledge of basic concepts the programme specifically aims to extend their use of higher order conceptual language. It enables them to make spontaneous and flexible use of their conceptual understandings and transfer these to broader contexts.

For example, when children are describing a picture of a flower do they make explicit and clear reference to its colour, shape, size, as well as other dimensions of the stimulus? Try this to see if children make spontaneous and flexible use of their conceptual understandings.

From birth children are constantly exposed to new stimuli in their environment and the process of trying to make sense of the world begins. At about 18 months things take a dramatic turn when the child starts to develop object permanence and is able to form mental representations of objects even when they are not present. Language is the next important marker of the child’s  development.

From a cognitive development perspective, concept learning is an integral aspect of life from the start however rudimentary these concepts  might be. As the child grows older these initial understandings evolve, become more complex, and give birth to conceptual categories. It is therefore advisable that names for conceptual categories such as colour and shape are introduced as early as possible and definitely during the pre-school years.  It is however important that the conceptual categories are not introduced in isolation from the concrete reference.