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In this lesson, you will learn the definition of concept attainment, as well as the model and strategy used by teachers to help students learn attributes of concepts and critical thinking skills.

What Is Concept Attainment?

Looking at this set of pictures, what theme do you think all the pictures have in common? If you guessed, ‘weather,’ you are right.

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The pictures and text associated with the pictures (sunny, rainy and cloudy) all have one thing in common – they are symbols and descriptors of the weather!

Concept Attainment
Image 1: Concept Attainment

That was pretty easy, you may say! Well, that was a very basic and elementary example of concept attainment. Concept Attainment is a teaching strategy created by Jerome Bruner that encourages critical thinking and involves a teacher giving students a group of pictures or words and asking them to decide what the pictures or words have in common. The concept or common theme, therefore, is kept from the students so that they can use their critical thinking skills to figure it out themselves! It really is a fun teaching method and fun for students as well!

Why Does Concept Attainment Work?

Jerome Bruner developed the concept under the premise that humans naturally tend to group together things of similar characteristics as a coping strategy to deal with the diversity and complexity in our environments. Political parties, eating habits (vegetarians, vegans, meat-eaters, etc.

) and religions (Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) are all categories that we group people into, for example. Humans love to group things! That is why this learning strategy is relevant and works so well!

Concept Attainment Model

The concept attainment model consists of a teacher showing a list of words or a grouping of pictures and telling the students which words or pictures fit into the unknown concept and which words or pictures do not fit into the unknown concept.

Here’s another example of the concept attainment model at work:

Given the pictures that fit into the concept and the ones that do not, what is the likely concept? That is right! Vegetables!
Example of the concept attainment model at work.

Teachers may use the concept attainment model when they want their students to learn a set of attributes or characteristics about a certain concept, group or category. For example, if a teacher wanted to teach his students the attributes of mammals, he could use the concept attainment model. He may have a stack of cards, each card with a picture of an animal.

He would not tell his students the concept and ask them to instead guess the common theme themselves.

Images of mammals.</p>
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<p>He would hold up each card of an animal and say ‘yes’ when there is a picture of a mammal or ‘no’ when there is a picture of another type of animal. The students would hopefully realize, sooner, rather than later, that the commonality of the ‘yes’ animals were that they were all mammals! They would only be able to do this if they knew the common attributes of mammals.</p>
<h2>Using the Concept Attainment Strategy</h2>
<p>There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing to use the concept attainment strategy. These tips will help you develop a successful concept attainment model.</p>
<ul>
<li>Use ‘yes’ and ‘no’ examples of the concept. Start with more obvious examples first and then get to trickier ones to make students think even harder.</p>
</li>
<li>When students are trying to guess, ask them to brainstorm aloud together. Ask them what common attributes they have seen so far in the ‘yes’ examples. You want them to think aloud so that students can come together and problem-solve.</li>
<li>Further students’ learning of the concept by following it up with a class project incorporating all of the features or characteristics of the concept.</p>
<p> For example, if the students are learning watercolor versus other types of paintings, have them do a watercolor painting to ensure they understand the concept.</li>
</ul>
<h2>Lesson Summary</h2>
<p>The <b>concept attainment model</b> is a great teaching strategy to encourage deep and critical thinking. Teachers present a list of words or pictures to their students and say ‘yes’ to the words or pictures that encompass the particular concept they want their students to learn. They say ‘no’ to the words or pictures that do not encompass the particular concept. In this way, students are encouraged to think about the common attributes that make up a certain concept.</p>
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