University students are often asked to learn abstract concepts. Abstract concepts are hard to learn. Giving specific examples can help learning abstract concepts. These examples might limit understanding to the similarities between the abstract domain and particular examples. The primary purpose of this study was to test whether exposure to multiple examples would lead to better learning than exposure to a single example. Secondarily, we were interested in whether there was any particularly effective example. Introductory psychology students were invited to learn about the abstract concept of semiotics, through either 1) three of five distinct examples or 2) a single example presented three times. We assessed learning through definitions, transfer to a novel example, and self-report. The results showed no support for the hypothesis that exposure to multiple examples led to better learning. There was, however, one particular example that was more memorable and resulted in better learning. These results have implications about how best to teach abstract concepts.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Funkhouser, Ava and Nicoladis, Elena
"A Really Good Example Helps Learning About an Abstract Concept,"
International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning:
1, Article 12.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2023.17112