A more Comprehensive Overview of the SCT Theory and Practice.


Systematic Concept Teaching (SCT) – What, how and why?

Systematic Concept Teaching (SCT) is an educational and metacognitive approach based on Magne Nyborg's (1927-1996) comprehensive theory of learning. This theory emphasizes the role of language and, in particular, the role of Basic Conceptual Systems (BCS) (re Color, Shape, Size, Position, Place, Direction, Surface Pattern, Direction, Number, Time, etc.) as important prerequisites and tools for Analytic Coding, thinking and learning. These Basic Conceptual Systems and their related concepts can be taught by means of the Concept Teaching Model (The CTM), which was developed by Dr. Magne Nyborg. 

This approach aims to help students who have had negative experiences concerning their learning possibilities develop positive expectations towards learning. Also, it seeks to teach them to direct and take control of their attention, training them in prolonging and expanding their short-term memory (STM) and working memory (WM) by consciously applying language in these processes (outer as well as internalized private speech). 

Moreover, it makes students aware of and trains them in the use of language as a tool for further thinking and problem-solving. In short, an important aim for SCT is to teach students how to be more effective learners. This approach also includes training students in how to apply a precise and decontextualized (or situational independent) language when it is needed in communication, thinking and learning. 

Teachers are trained to apply BCSs and their related concepts deliberately as tools for the teaching of school subjects, including skills of different kinds as students learn more and more BCSs and their related concepts.

The CTM is divided into three different Phases, named according to the particular processes represented in each Phase.  

·      Phase 1: Selective Association (or learning associations)

·      Phase 2: Selective Discrimination (learning discriminations)

·      Phase 3: Selective Generalization (discovering and verbalizing similarities and differences)

However, a fourth and basic process named Analytic Coding underlies the learning in all three Phases. In this context, Analytic Coding involves the students performing analyses and comparisons of the different objects presented in light of their knowledge about Basic Conceptual Systems and their related concepts. Thus, the students facilitate their discovery of the actual partial similarities and partial differences (What color, shape, size, position, number, etc. do the different objects in question have, and how are the presented and perceived objects similar or different based on the exemplified questions?). Analyses and comparisons corresponding to this are presumed to take place initially in an intuitive way. As students learn conceptual systems and their related concepts in a verbally conscious way, it is presumed that analyses and comparisons will then be performed on a more conscious level.   

 Below, is a very simplified illustration of the Concept Teaching Model, by which it is possible to teach Basic Conceptual Systems to a verbally conscious, generalized and transferable level. This illustration is an overview of the CTM with its three Phases, including possible procedures and dialogue in each Phase, using the example of a “round shape” as the focus of the simplified lesson for Basic Conceptual Systems and their related basic concepts. Please note that Phases 1 and 2 of the CTM below are demonstrated using only one task while Phase 3 uses two different tasks to give the reader an overview of what each Phase represents in general. (For a fully developed version of a CTM lesson, see Lesson 5. Round shape included in the attached Sample Packet.) 

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What kind of students/population can benefit from Systematic Concept Teaching (SCT)? 


Generally, one can say that SCT is well suited for students starting at four or five years of age, who can understand oral language information to a certain degree, and who can imitate short sequences of words (or signs) with the teacher and other students in a group as a model.  Recently, some experiences with a simplified form of SCT indicate that students between two and three years of age might also benefit from SCT. 

Throughout more than 30 years, many teaching experiments related to Concept Teaching have been carried out by Magne Nyborg and colleagues, including Andreas Hansen. To summarize the findings, it is possible to say that the following categories of learners have been shown to benefit from this approach to teaching:

 •      Early teaching of typically developing students; that is within Pre-school settings and in the early grades of Elementary school

•      Students, young people and adults with specific disabilities, including those exhibiting various kinds of language-learning disorders.

•      Students and young people with general disorders of learning, combined with a lower IQ

•      Students and young people whose primary language is not the dominant language of the culture in which they currently live 

•      Students and young people with “behavioral disorders’, including schizophrenia 

 In addition, there are good reasons to expect that students with hearing loss or vision problems can also benefit from the implementation of SCT.  

Practitioner’s Manual with lessons for Systematic Concept Teaching and much more

Over the last several years, Andreas Hansen (Norway) and Kelly Morgan (Seattle, US) have collaborated on developing a manual for teachers, parents and other interested professionals on SCT theory and practice, including lessons for SCT, which will make the approach more available to English speaking potential users. This manual will be available in an electronic version in Spring 2019, and is titled:

Intelligent and Effective Learning based on the Model for Systematic Concept Teaching

Practitioner’s Manual for the Systematic Concept Teaching (SCT) Approach to the Prevention and Remediation of Learning Difficulties

Andreas Hansen and Kelly Morgan, 2019

 The practitioner’s manual consists of 11 chapters together with an intervention program for Systematic Concept Teaching (SCT), located on a flash drive (when it comes to the electronic version). The intervention program consists of 56 lessons for SCT based on the principles of the Model for Systematic Concept Teaching (abbreviated: The Concept Teaching Model or, the CTM). Each lesson plan incorporates various hands-on activities together with sets of animated slides that are effective for teaching each of the Basic Conceptual Systems and the related Basic Concepts (conceptual vocabulary) they encompass. Many of these lessons also contain Home Practice Worksheets for follow-up cooperative learning between the student and her/his parents. Besides these, there are several more SCT resources on the flash drive, cf. the introduction to the resources on the flash drive presented below. 

This English language webpage for SCT has been created in order to provide a platform for further resources and for the sharing of teaching strategies and ideas related to SCT by educators and professionals who implement SCT in their school programs or research.

On training for SCT

It is anticipated that Hansen and Morgan will offer a 2-day basic workshop on the SCT approach. Ideally, such an introduction would be followed up by an additional 1 or 2-day training after approximately half a year. In some cases, an introduction to SCT of only 1-day might be considered. Full training on the SCT approach, however, by definition, would require a more significant number of days.   

Some general "evaluations" from outside the SCT community of practitioners 


In some cases, SCT theory and practice has been compared to other approaches by professionals from outside the SCT community. This type of comparison happened in 2003 when Hansen and three others were challenged by Dr. Martin Miller to write about “mediation,” after having participated in a Symposium on the topic at a conference the previous year: "The meaning of mediation. Different perspectives". Simply put, mediation refers to the specific role of adults and other more competent individuals in the cognitive development of students, as well as in how best to promote learning. A. Hansen wrote about mediation from the perspective of Magne Nyborg, Ruth M. Deutsch from the standpoint of Mediated Learning Experiences (Reuven Feuerstein), Yuriy Karpov wrote on Vygotsky's conception of mediation, and H. Carl Haywood wrote on mediation within a Neo-Piagetian framework. The articles were published in the Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology (Volume 3 Number 1 May 2003) with M. B. Miller as guest editor for the topic.

In Miller’s discussion of the varying perspectives, he writes about the similarities and differences among the perspectives, with some references to the common historical bases of these different points of view and, of course, on many important aspects of mediation. When Miller compares the effectiveness of the various theories/models with their methods, he sums up his findings as follows:

It is worth noting that to my knowledge, Hansen shows striking objective evidence of theeffectiveness of Nyborgian methods with special-needs students, those with significant intellectual and related learning deficits, in my view more convincingly than I have seen with any of the methods derived from the other models that have been described here, although I do not know the special education literature, if any, on Vygotskian derivatives in Russia. I believe that the effectiveness of the Nyborgian model in special education is explained by the particulars of the teaching methodology that we have read about, at least partially, in Hansen’s paper.
— (Miller, 2003, p. 84)

As the reader will notice, Miller gives a very positive evaluation of the effectiveness of SCT theory and practice. Another comment on SCT theory and teaching methodology comes from the late Dr. Robert Burdon, University of Exeter, as guest editor on a special issue of the journal: Thinking skills and Creativity (Volume 2 Issue 3 2009). The theme being: "Thinking goes to school". Hansen's article in this issue was based on a paper originally presented at a Conference in South Africa 2009 (South African branch conference of the International Association of Cognitive Education and Psychology in Cape Town, February 2009 – The conference theme: The art of thinking) on which Hansen was one of the Keynote speakers. His article is titled: Basic Conceptual Systems (BCSs) – tools for analytic coding, thinking and learning: A concept teaching curriculum in Norway. In reference to Hansen's article, Robert Burdon (2009) comments that among other things: 

“… It would appear that the programme has been most widely and successfully used with students suffering from severe speech and language delay, but a case can surely be made that the logical process by which the key language concepts have been identified and the intensive reinforcement accompanying their introduction makes wider application worthy of consideration.  … (work in progress) …, based on sound theoretical principles, which warrants wider dissemination and consideration.”  
— Robert Burdon (2009)

Further evidence that SCT should be considered among the effective methods for those diagnosed as having intellectual disabilities is the fact that Hansen, in May 27–31, 1997 was invited to New York to participate in a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Association on Mental Retardation (Now: The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities). The heading of the symposium was "Teaching thinking to persons with mental retardation (Intellectual Disability): International perspectives (psychology)". The four perspectives and the presenters are presented in the citation below by the moderator Dr. H. Carl Haywood (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN), who writes in the abstract book for the meeting as follows: 

Adequate development of basic logic systems has come to be recognized as a vital tool of learning and socialization. Seen as a learning tool, cognitive development is even more important for persons who, by definition, have difficulty learning than it is with those who learn more easily. Four perspectives on this issue, representing four national cultures (Australia, Norway, Israel, and Russia) are presented, each with a theoretical introduction and some empirical data in support of its use in the education of persons with mental retardation (Intellectual Disability), each with a theoretical introduction of its use in the education of persons with mental retardation. Ashman discusses Process-Based Instruction as an inclusion tool. Hansen presents evidence for educationally produced changes in abilities to learn, focusing on Basic Conceptual Systems and a Concept Teaching Model. Tzuriel presents the best-known model, that of mediated learning and structural cognitive modifiability, and shows how it is used in Israel and elsewhere to improve learning competence. Karpov and Gindis present the relevant cultural-historical approach of L.S. Vygotsky and shows its contemporary application in persons with mental retardation.   
— (H. Carl Haywood, 1997, p. 16)

Burdon, Robert (2009) Thinking skills and Creativity (Volume 2, Issue 3 2009)

Haywood, H. C. (1997). Teaching thinking to persons with mental retardation: International perspectives. In American association on mental retardation 121st annual meeting May 27–31, Abstracts. Sharing global perspectives on disability (p. 16). New York. 

Miller, M. B. (2003). The meaning of mediation: Discussion of varying perspectives. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology (online). 3(1), 82–89.