Concept-based learning in IB Business
The shift to concept-based learning is a major feature of the new IB Business Management syllabus guide, teaching in 2014. IB workshop leader, Lloyd Gutteridge, shares his advice on integrating this new approach.
...by being creative and ‘playing’, students had discovered concepts and new ideas for themselves.
What is concept-based learning?
Concept-based learning (CBL) is an approach I have been delivering before I knew it was CBL! I would simply call it 'active teaching' – trying to elicit discussion from students so that we can build the knowledge base together. The IB defines CBL as a three-dimensional model that frames factual content and skills with disciplinary concepts – in IB Business Management, these concepts include change, culture, ethics, globalization, innovation and strategy.
So what does that mean?
The CBL approach focuses on these broad conceptual ideas, and uses the related disciplinary facts and skills and tools to drive a deeper understanding of subject knowledge and cross-curricular themes. In short, the facts are considered through the lens of the wider concepts. In my experience, CBL enhances student creative and critical thinking, questioning and research skills.
How does it work in the IB classroom?
Two years ago, I used Lego to try to help students understand the economic and business concepts of scarcity, choice and opportunity cost. The students were given an idea to build a form of transport for the future, but were told this only after they had helped themselves to handfuls of Lego.
Many students jumped at the chance to build something, but as the construction progressed an unprompted barter session began and a Lego trading market deliciously appeared with an exchange rate set by the students. After showcasing the designs, we looked at the emerging issues such as limited means and specialization. Some of these learning outcomes I could not have predicted, but by being creative and ‘playing’, students had discovered concepts and new ideas for themselves.
Then one parent complained. Why is my son/daughter using Lego to teach Economics? What possible educational benefits could this playing lead to?
Creativity must be allowed to thrive despite the sceptics, and this new approach will enable IB students to integrate and apply their Business knowledge to increasingly complex and changing real world situations. Will I continue to teach in this manner? Of course, and now I begin work at a new school committed to nurturing, creativity and innovation. It should be quite a journey.
Lloyd Gutteridge has been an IB Business Management online workshop leader for over 11 years. He has considerable experience delivering concept-based curricula, and is currently developing a concept-based teaching model in New Zealand, which was one of the first countries to put concept-based learning at the heart of their national curriculum.