A lot of research has been done on instructional techniques to teach concepts. Studies show that concepts comprise of four components: Definition, Examples, Non-Examples and Analogies. Let’s understand each of these in detail and how you can apply this knowledge in developing instructionally sound eLearning courses.
1. Definition: A definition is a statement of the critical features of a concept. In terms of defining technical terms, you will face some challenges because to put technical terms in statement format is very difficult because it leads to the difficulty of defining terms. Now, if you defined any terms, it doesn’t mean that learner will be able to identify that part or object that you are defining, either because the definition itself doesn’t show or encourage the learner to identify the object. Shows an example that make the learner identify the object.
2. Examples: An example is the real instance of the concept that makes your definition concrete enough to support it with examples. For concrete concepts, it’s best to use pictures, and for abstract concepts, you can use formal words like integrity, goal, etc. Though there is no visual representation of an example, it is still a concept.
3. Non-Examples: A non-example is also a real instance of the concept where it is closely related but could be confused with the concept. Suppose you are teaching a concept of a dog, your non-example would be a cat because a cat also has the same features of a dog but it varies. So, you would have to define an example and a non-example and explain why a non-example does not explain the concept that you are teaching.
4. Analogy: An analogy is a representation of a concept that corresponds with it in function or form but which is otherwise dissimilar. Remember in our primary school we had mathematics class with chocolate, apples and with fractions like one half and one fourth? So, apples and mathematics do not relate at all but our teachers were using an apple as a subject to teach us. This is an analogy. This is because the mentor wants the learner to relate unrelated things to all those that he knows. Analogies, therefore, make the learning more effective but in such a way that you relate to what the learner knows already. Don’t show them something unrelated and ask them to learn. Instead, show them something they know and make them relate the concept that you want to teach.
Thus while teaching concepts it is very important that from the above four components, you need to include at least Definition and Examples. You may or may not want to include the remaining two.