Concept Classification/Routine Tactics for Teaching
We can group the routine tactics for teaching concept classification into:
Let's take a look at each.
One presentation tactic is to present a generality that only includes examples that help the learner to classify. When we want the learner to learn other things about the concept, a different type of learning is involved--understanding. However, it is helpful to understand that some concepts are defined on the basis of critical characteristics, whereas others are defined on the basis of functions. These are called criterial definitions and functional definitions, respectively. For example, "chair" can be defined as something to sit in with back support, or it can be defined as having a seat, raised off the ground, and a back. A definition can also have both criterial and functional characteristics. For example, a chair is something to sit in, and it has a back.
Given the purpose of presenting examples as discussed above, we should make sure they are very divergent (as different as possible from each other), and we should present some of them with matched nonexamples. Markle and Tiemann (1969) have identified what they call a "minimum critical subset" of examples, which is one of each of the major types of examples that comprise the concept class. This means that in designing the examples, you must first identify all the major ways that the examples can differ.
Since the learners need to be able to generalize the classification skill to examples that they have never seen before, your practice should always present new instances (ones not used in the examples), and they should be divergent from each other, including at least one "minimum critical subset" of instances.
If learners practice the wrong responses without being corrected, those wrong responses are likely to become difficult to change. Thus, it is very important to correct wrong responses as soon as possible after they occur. This is called "informational feedback." If the learners get it right, you can confirm their response. If they get it wrong, you can give them the correct response with explanations or give them hints that help them to figure out how to correct their own responses. But feedback can serve a second purpose--motivation.
Does this mean that your sequence of routine tactics should be generality-example-practice? Certainly not. We have seen that the instruction should begin with prototype formation. Hence, a prototypical example should lead the instruction, usually with a simultaneous presentation of the generality. Also, young learners tend to benefit from plentiful examples before presentation of the generality, and you may want to use a discovery approach where the generality isn't presented at all until it has been discovered.
Next, it is often helpful for learners to be able to skip around among the instructional tactics. After looking at the generality and prototypical example, a learner might think she already knows the concept. She could then go directly to the more difficult practice to test herself. If she gets it wrong, she could go back and look at an example of medium difficulty, then go and try out a practice item of medium difficulty or take a look at the generality again, and so forth. All that's needed to facilitate such learner control is to clearly label the various routine tactics. This is a more practical and empowering solution to individual differences than designing different instruction for each learner.
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- Concept Classification by Charles M. Reigeluth. Used by Permission.