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Connecting Concepts

Thinking activities for students

Connecting Concepts by Clinton Golding
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We explain, describe, and make sense of the world by using concepts. Think of concepts like friendship, learning, explanation, or freedom, for example. These concepts are rarely examined in any depth. They form the framework and background of our thinking, rather than what we think about. There is, however, a very rich and very long tradition of philosophical exploration and appreciation of these concepts and their use in our lives. Perhaps the most famous point in this tradition was when Socrates roamed about ancient Athens discussing concepts like justice, piety, courage and love with anyone who would listen. This book makes this philosophical tradition of exploring concepts easily accessible to teachers and students. The key feature of the tradition that Socrates was engaged in is conceptual analysis – the analysing of concepts that are common, central and contestable. Examples of such concepts are knowledge, culture, mind and responsibility. The concepts are common in that they are familiar ideas we use or refer to almost every day. The concepts are central because they are important to our understanding of ourselves and the world. They are also central because they provide the foundation for all disciplines and subjects as well as making links between them. The concepts are contestable because, ultimately, exactly what these concepts mean is controversial. There is no definition without possible faults or that cannot be revised. Conceptual analysis of such concepts leads to a sense of wonder, excitement in intellectual exploration and a deeper understanding of the world and our place in it. This book presents a particular tool for enabling students to engage in conceptual analysis called the concept game. Each concept game consists of a large number of cases. Each of the cases is either an example of a particular concept, an example of something that does not fall under that concept, or a borderline case. However, it is never entirely obvious which category a case falls in. Students must grapple with categorising these cases, and in the process they explore and refine their definition of the concept. The process swings easily between the concrete and the abstract. The students construct definitions and test them with concrete cases, then they can modify, accept or reject the definitions. The students agree and disagree with each other, leading to the group building up their own detailed understanding of the concept under investigation.
Australian Council for Educational Research; Read online
Title: Connecting Concepts
Author: Clinton Golding
 

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