Teaching involves the use of various techniques in order to convey meaning for the students. The available methods that are available are highly varied. In this post, we will look at the use of examples and nonexamples in providing meaning for students.
The term many of us are probably familiar with is example. In education, examples represent an idea or concept that a teacher is trying to teach their students.For example (no pun intended), if a teacher is trying to explain vocabulary they may use several different illustrations to explain the word. Consider the example below.
Teacher: Today’s vocab word is convoluted. Convoluted means something that is complicated. For example, the human body is very convoluted with all of its cells and systems.
This example above brief an illustration of the use of examples. Examples provide synonyms or other means of similarity with the unclear concept. Therefore, an example is always like or similar to whatever it is an example of.
Nonexamples are, as you can tell, the opposite of examples.Where examples provide an instance of similarity, nonexamples provide an instance of contrast. Below is the same situation with the use of convoluted is a sentence but this time the teacher shows the meaning through employing a nonexample.
Teacher: Today’s vocab word is convoluted. Convoluted means something that is complicated. Something that is not convoluted would be a rock or a ladder.
The example in the last sentence is an example of what convoluted is not. The contrast helps students to envision what the word is not and to develop their own ideas of what the word is.
Teaching Ideas for Examples and Nonexamples
Depending on the teaching method there are many practical ways to use examples and nonexamples. If direct instruction is used, it would be the teacher who provides the examples and nonexamples. If indirect instruction is employed, the students create the examples and none examples. In cooperative or inquiry classrooms, small groups develop examples and nonexamples.
For whatever reason, it is normally easier to develop examples rather than develop non-examples. The mind seems better adapted at seeing similarities rather than differences. For this reason, challenging students to develop nonexamples, may stretch their thinking more.
As a teacher, it is probably best to develop examples and nonexamples before teaching that are consistent with the goals and objectives of the learning experience. It’s difficult to create great teaching strategies while in front of the students. A methodological approach to developing teaching tools is always valuable.
Examples and nonexamples are tools that most teachers have been using without perhaps knowing it. This is especially true for examples. However, understanding how and why the tools work is highly beneficial in inspiring informed practice.