Highly abstract concepts, such as jurisprudence and sovereignty, oftentimes cause high school students much struggle when trying to thoroughly understand such conceptual ideas. To teach these theoretical concepts, one must not only equivalently utilize David Ausubel’s Expository teaching model, but also retain an overall knowledge of other valuable strategies related to Ausubels’s model (Woolfolk, 2004, p. 281). To Ausubel, the most significant idea is that of the advance organizer, a statement of introduction that aids students in organizing the information about to be presented.
Also to a teacher’s benefit are the ideas needed to form a concept, such as exemplars, defining features, irrelevant features, non-examples, and prototypes. Introducing the advance organizer, presenting ideas in terms of specific examples, and linking the content back to the advance organizer is Ausubel’s model for expository teaching (Woolfolk, 2004, p. 283). Ausubel’s expository teaching primarily focuses on teaching general ideas to comprehend one specific concept, otherwise known as deductive reasoning.
His approach always begins with an advance organizer (Woolfolk, 2004, p. 282). This statement aids in priming the students for the context and idea about to be described. It will help in developing schemas, or organizing information, and helps direct all attention to the key ideas coming from the material being presented. The first of the two types of organizer is the expository organizer, which primarily focuses the introduction of new material.
The second is the comparative organizer, which compares old and new information resulting in students accessing schemas already in their working memory, otherwise know as the “temporary storage of information that is being processed in a range of cognitive tasks” (Woolfolk, 2004, p. 242). An expository lesson must always elaborate on the advance organizer. Connecting the information back to the organizer should also be utilized in completing the lesson.
Identifying qualities such as defining features (required features), exemplars (actual instances), irrelevant features (often present but not relevant), and non-examples will all assist in creating a prototype, or an ideal example, to aid in grasping the concept. The goal is the ability to take the concept and relate it back to the advance organizer. In contrast to expository teaching, Jerome Bruners theory of discovery learning focuses on students receiving specific examples and developing an overall definition on their own (Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin, 1956; as cited in Woolfolk, 2004).
Discovery learning, while keeping students motivated and involved, seems to have various drawbacks in the high school environment. The most apparent drawback is the issue of time constraints. High school classes simply do not allow the time needed for students to develop concepts through discovery and experimentation. To teach difficult concepts like sovereignty and jurisprudence, one might apply expository teaching to assist students in grasping such abstract ideas. For instance, a teacher might start with an advance organizer in order to better explain sovereignty and jurisprudence.
Since the topics are especially broad it would be beneficial to use a comparative organizer. Doing so, students can organize their own thoughts by putting them in the context of something that they already know. An introduction to jurisprudence should most likely include the overall definition, being “the study, knowledge, or science of law” (dictionary. com). Comparing and contrasting the United States laws with other countries would also aid in focusing the students attention on the idea being introduced.
Researching laws from other countries that may seem ancient or impractical may simply be a strategic way to elaborate the idea. Thinking of examples as a class and further defining what jurisprudence means to each student will also keep the students actively involved with the idea at hand. The prototype that a class may discuss concerning jurisprudence could be the United States Bill of Rights. Reviewing material introduced in question and answer format is an efficient way to connect the information back to the advance organizer. Sovereignty also has a core meaning, “supreme authority within a territory”.
In other words, the holder of sovereignty is superior to all authorities under its purview (plato. stanford. edu). The advance organizer for sovereignty might include a comparison of different types of “supreme” authorities. One might ask questions such as, “Is high school an example of sovereignty? “, or “Is your family an example of sovereignty? ” A discussion of other countries, historically and today, would also help expand this idea. Discussing the prototype of each idea will help in relating the content covered back to the advance organizer.
While using expository teaching to present a concept, one would start with an advance organizer. A comparative organizer, which compares old and new information, would aid in beginning a lesson dealing with the concept of mammals (Woolfolk, 2004, p. 281). The lesson could begin with a statement or diagram that connects several different mammals and deals with comparing and contrasting their relationship. A teacher would continue by naming and defining the concept, and producing exemplars, or actual instances.
Mammals can be defined as various “warm-blooded vertebrate animals of the class Mammalia, including humans, characterized by a covering of hair on the skin, and in the female, milk-producing mammary glands for nourishing the young” (dictionary. com). Involving the students to come up with examples and non-examples are key in focusing their attention, grasping the concept that they are discovering, and comparing with the non-examples. Exemplars would include people, kangaroos, whales, cats, dolphins, and camels. Non-examples might include chickens, fish, alligators, frogs, and penguins.
The best examples to include are those that might possibly be conceived as an example. For example, when discovering that whales are mammals, one might assume that fish must also be included as well. To differentiate the two, a teacher would help students develop irrelevant features and required features of the concept that is being developed. From the definition, we can assume that in order to be placed in the mammal’s schema, females must have glands for feeding their offspring, which proves to be a relevant feature. While developing the concept of mammals, a student’s mind will start forming a prototype.
For mammals, a human being would almost certainly become the ideal example. Expository teaching is an efficient way in connecting abstract ideas and developing concrete schemas. In a previous English class, my instructor attempted to help students develop our grasp of abstract ideas. My instructor first utilized a comparative advance organizer by introducing the idea of concrete ideas, such as flowers, and how they interact and compare with abstract ideas, such as peace. The concept he was trying to introduce was the actual theory of abstract ideas.
A concept is a category used to group similar events, ideas, objects, or people. Concepts are abstractions and therefore do not exist in the real world. Only individual examples of concepts exist. Naming abstract ideas and defining them as ideas that we cannot touch still left us without the actual organization we needed to make specific connections. Our instructor asked us what we thought when we heard the word “peace”, which many of the students connected with an image of an American flag or a green meadow. He further explained that we had developed our own prototype or image, which we connected to the word.
His exemplars included such abstract words as freedom, love, independence, classes, and truth. He used concrete ideas like cat, flower, starts, and trees to compare by non-examples. My instructor concluded his lesson by highlighting his organizer and repeating the idea that abstract ideas were all symbols of something. Abstractions are not an actual object itself, as opposed to concrete ideas that are material and solid. The expository method can be ideal for teaching abstract concepts such as jurisprudence and sovereignty to high school students within a limited amount of time.
Through first naming the concept and giving the definition, as well as applying tools such as the advance organizer, a teacher will gain the students attention and allow them to organize their ideas in order to make connections. When teaching a concept, it is best to keep in mind that students will respond most when a concept is taught in a way that is useful and efficient versus being taught in a manner geared only towards answering exam questions. By extending and connecting the concepts in these significant ways, students will be able to focus on the meaning and not on memorization.