Universal concepts are ideas, themes, principles that are found and can be proven within, between, and across subject areas and disciplines.   

Concepts may be used to increase the complexity, clarity, and comprehension of content within an area of study.
  • When used with a specific discipline, the use of a concept will allow students to examine the interrelationships between and among facts, details, rules, and ideas.
  • When used across disciplines, a concept will allow students to study the inter-relatedness of areas of study.  

Each of the following concepts is broken down into generalizations to “…facilitate connections, provide scaffolding, and stimulate retention of content...Such generalizations may be used to clarify and focus the application of the universal concept in the process of enhancing content.” [Kaplan & Gould]


1.    Change                          
2.   Community 
3.   Conflict 
4.   Exploration
5.   Force
6.   Order 
7.   Patterns
8.   Power
9.   Structure
10. Systems
11. Relationships
12. Adaptation          


1. Change:
        - generates additional change
        - can be either positive or negative
        - is inevitable
        - is necessary for growth
        - can be evolutionary or revolutionary

2. Community:
 - has members
        - members share a common
- follow patterns of growth and change    
        - when one community comes in contact with
           another community, change may occur

3. Conflict:
- is composed of opposing forces
- may be natural or man-made
- may be intentional or unintentional
- may allow for synthesis and change
- is progressive

4. Exploration:
- requires recognizing purpose and responding to it
- confronts the unknown
- may result in new findings or the confirmation of old findings

5. Force
- attracts, holds, or repels
- influences or changes
- and inertia are co-dependent
- may be countered with equal or greater force
6. Order:
- may be natural or constructed
- may allow for prediction
- is a form of communication
- may have repeated patterns
- are reciprocals
- lead to one another

7. Patterns
- have segments that are repeated
- allow for prediction
- have an internal order
- are enablers

8. Power:
- is the ability to influence
- may be used or abused
- is always present in some form
- may take many forms

9. Structure:
- has parts that inter-relate
- parts support and are supported  by other  parts
- may be combined to form larger structures
- is no stronger than its weakest component

10. Systems:
- work to complete a task or a mission
- are composed of sub-systems and parts
- follow rules
- may be influenced by other system

11. Relationships                             
- everything is related in some way
- are powerful
- change over time
- have rules
- are everywhere

12. Adaptation
- occurs over time
- can be positive or negative
- leads to change
- can be planned or spontaneous