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M. Etkind1, U. Shafrir2

1Ryerson University (CANADA)
2University of Toronto (CANADA)
Interactive Concept Discovery (InCoD) is a novel learning tool in the context of pedagogy for conceptual thinking. It support semantic searches of Key Word In Context (KWIC) based on Concept Parsing Algorithms (CPA), an interactive procedure that use text analysis (concordance; collocation; co-occurrence; word frequency) and allows students to explore the course Knowledge Repository (KR) for discovery of conceptual contents. InCoD guides the sequential teaching/learning process in an academic course by focusing learners’ attention on conceptual meaning. InCoD is part of a pedagogical approach that is very different from the usual classroom scenario where students are given an exercise and asked to solve it individually. Formative assessments are structured to provide an opportunity for students to discuss and exchange ideas; to share and contrast points-of-view; to prompt and refresh each other’s memory regarding important details of the conceptual situation; and to ‘compare notes’ about possible responses.

Weekly searches with InCoD lead to discovery of relations among co-occurring and sub-ordinate concepts. The learner reads and annotates found documents, and evaluates their degree of relevance to the specific conceptual situation under consideration; creates his/her individual index with alphabetic list of content words; and constructs concept maps with graphical visualizations that reveal patterns of associations among concepts. InCoD semantic searches following weekly formative assessments prompt class discussions. They provide feedback that identify 'soft conceptual spots' in students’ understanding of important conceptual issues, and guide the instructor to provide class activities to remedy conceptual misunderstandings. Systematic video recordings of small group discussions in weekly quizzes reveal enhanced students’ engagement and peer cooperation, and members of a group listening intently to an individual presenting a convincing point-of-view. Pedagogy of conceptual thinking and peer cooperation in the classroom enhance learning outcomes and higher-order thinking, motivate and engage students. This is particularly important in large undergraduate classes.

Our experience in implementing Interactive Concept Discovery (InCoD) in Canada, Russia, Israel, Australia, and Italy include: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of University of Toronto (OISE/UT); Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science at Ryerson University, Toronto; George Brown College, Toronto; Independent Learning Center (ILC) of TVOntario; Material and Manufacturing Ontario (MMO) Centre of Excellence; Roots and Routes Summer Institute, University of Toronto, Scarborough; Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto; Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg; Meir Medical Center, Kfar Saba, Israel; Faculty of Engineering at Ben Gurion University, Israel; School of Education, University of New England, Australia; and M@t.abel, the Italian national mathematics educational program, Department of Mathematics at University of Turin. These implementations include workshops for training of instructors, and classroom implementations in several knowledge domains: Language (ESL; learning disabilities); Social Science (psychology; teacher education); History; Architecture; Mathematics (algebra; geometry; statistics); Science (physics; biology); Health; Business (project management; risk management).