Using symbolic instances in teaching history

Keiichi Magara, Toshihiko Shindo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Statements taught to students can, in general, be described in proposition form, as "if it is p, then it implies q." Examples obtained by embodying the antecedent "p" are called "substitution instances." It is possible to obtain another type of example by embodying the consequent "q." We conceptualized such examples as "symbolic instances." The present experiments investigated effects of symbolic instances on the learning of historical statements. The first experiment, in which 87 fifth graders from 3 classes participated, examined the following : (1) whether symbolic instances would arouse learners' interest, (2) whether learners could accept new symbolic instances as probable, and (3) whether symbolic instances would promote learners' understanding of statements. The results supported the first of those, and partially supported the other two. The second experiment further examined whether learners could accept new symbolic instances as probable. Participants were 182 undergraduates. The results revealed that the effect could be confirmed only with new instances that were similar to the ones used in the learning sessions. The results also suggested that learners could accept new symbolic instances as probable if they learned multiple instances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
JournalJapanese Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004 Sept


  • Fifth graders and university students
  • Learning history
  • Rules
  • Symbolic instance
  • Understanding statements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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