Identifying and teaching core concepts and practices

Use the following prompt questions to help you identify and plan to teach the concepts and practices at the heart of your subject

What are key knowledge concepts, principles, operations in your subject?

Concepts and principles might include conservation of mass, elasticity and metaphor. Concepts comprise the key operations that need to be understood – for example, in mathematics working with vectors.

What elements are essential to progression to deep understanding of your subject?

For example, threshold concepts such as conservation in arithmetic computation, subject and object in sentence construction, tolerances in engineering.

Is sequence of your teaching of concepts, ideas of skills arranged in logical sequence?
Are there topics that you know you will need to return to in order to consolidate or deepen the students’ understanding? For example, introducing the use of the subjunctive in French and building on previous verb tenses.

Do the pedagogical elements, what is to be taught and how it will be taught, reinforce one another?

Are there opportunities to consolidate previous learning? For example, use of light in art and photography, rise in democracy in European history and current areas of conflict.

What do your students need to know and be able to do to be good/outstanding at different levels of study?

Meeting qualification levels for example between GCSE, AS and ‘A’ levels, distinguishing between merit and distinction in BTEC.

What are the ‘tricky’ concepts, ideas and skills to teach?

How much time do you realistically need to teach these topics? For example, use of apostrophes in English, genres in literature, fractions, percentages and decimals in mathematics. 

Will you need to repeat the exploration of the topic using a number of different teaching strategies?


Developed from Coffield, (2011) Pedagogy, Power and Change in Vocational Education. LSIS National Teaching and Learning Fair 11 July 2011. London: University of London, Institute of Education (IOE).