Objectives and Assignments


Concept Attainment



Objectives and Assignments

Strategy Description

Strategy Template

Student Examples

Strategy Rubric

Comparing Models





During the 1960's there was a "revolution" in teaching models and presentation of lessons. The movement is often referred to as "The Structure of the Disciplines" movement. Momentum for the movement increased after "Sputnik". The public, content academics, psychologists and educators questioned whether we teaching our students the right information in enough depth.

An important meeting occurred in the late 1950's at Woods Hole, Massachusetts which brought all of the constinuences mentioned above together. The Process of Education is a small book written by Jerome Bruner, but documenting the essence of the discussions in the meetings held at Wood's Hole.

The movement has since been characterized as "The Structure of the Disciplines" movement. It was thought that there are key concepts for each discipline (e.g. biology, anthropology, physics, geometry, history, chemistry, sociology etc.). The key to in-depth learning is to identify these key concepts and their relationships to one another (their structure) and to design lessons which teach these concepts.

It was thought that students need to have direct experience with the methods and procedures of investigation that experts use in different fields of study. Thus, students might "become" anthropologists and inquire about a set of artifacts. The purpose of this type of activity would be to not only develop the intellectual skills of the area of study but also to gain an understanding of the key concepts of the area of study. It was thought that these outcomes would allow students to organize information, have a process of storing and remembering information and a have a mechanism for applying new information and generalizing information to new situations. Students could encounter concepts in an authentic, intellectual way, in a developmentally appropriate manner. The "spiralling curriculum" was introduced: Concepts can be taught at increasing more complex levels, visited and revisited throughout the educational process.

The concept attainment model arose out of the need to encourage and motivate students to learn concents; and to then ascertain whether students had indeed learned the key concepts.


Participants will:

  • identify the different phases of the concept attainment model
  • identify key concepts from their field(s) of study
  • develop positive and negative exemplars for a concept
    • a concrete, more "simple" concept
    • a complex, more abstract concept
  • choose developmentally appropriate concepts (for the learners)
  • list the essential attributes and non-essential attributes for the concepts
  • design activities to have students practice metacognition, to become aware of which mental activities they used to narrow their choices for attributes and concept names.
  • compare concept attainment and inductive reasoning
  • decide where the application of the strategy occurs along a continuum between teacher led and student led.



Joyce and Weill: Concept Attainment Model. Be sure to use the Erickson book as a resource and idea generator.


Concept Attainment is one of the required models for which you need to design plans.

1. The first plan should be a more concrete concept that will be fairly accessible for most of the learners. The first lesson will give both you and the students experience with the model. You will need to hand in the two planning sheets which list the specific examples and attributes as well as the sytategy template with the questions you will ask students.

2. You will need to devise a second plan that is concept attainment however the concept is more challenging to attain (This is a different concept than number 1 above.) It will be a greater challenge for you to devise the positive and negative exemplars and perhaps challenging to determine what are the essential attributes. Turn in the planning sheets nd the strategy template.

Activity 1

What's My Rule?

We will complete this activity in class. It is optional to complete with your students. It may be helpful for them in indentifying attributes, to see how the no examples are often as helpful as the yes examples. The link will take you to a word document with the lesson and the templates for the figures and the rules.

Activity 2

Concept Attainment Example #1

Concept Attainment Example #2

Word templates that you may use with your students are under "strategy template".

When planning your lessons out, you should fill out the student worksheets to provide an idea of what students will be doing.

Activity 3

Boxes of items: Comparing Inductivie Reasoning and Concept Attainment

Look at the section at the left compares models for a write up of this model.

Activity 4

You will be using the concept attainment model to explore webquests (project based learning) and to make a rubric for project based learning.

  • The final outcome that you should achieve from this activity is a rubric for webquests. You will be asked to share your rubric next week in class. Please turn in a hard copy. If we think of the rubric in three levels, the middle level should have the essential attributes, level 3 (highest) should list and describes what makes some projects more "elegant". The first level would indicate that certain aspects are lacking or less polished. If you want four levels, you have to decide if the essential attributes will be level 2 or 3 and adjust your descriptors accordingly.
  • As you look at the first example, Benin Treasures, ask yourself: What are the characteristics of this lesson? (the links are not active on this example, the purpose is to look at the organization parts of the lesson.)
  • As you look at the second example, The Donner Party, ask yourself: What does this lesson have in common with the first? Which elements seem to be better (how?) than the first example? Did the first example exceed this second example in any way? Any weaknesses of either?
  • As you look at the third example, A Greek Cinderella Story, ask the same questions. Your rubric should be evolving as you examine the different examples.
  • If you have time you may want to search other examples on the webquest site. Click on "examples". How would you evaluate those?






 EdTe 226

California State University, Sacramento
October, 2001