Facts, Concepts, and Generalizations or Big Ideas

Explanations, examples, and instructional ideas


Fact is something that actually exists or existed, object or event, and can be verified by observation. Facts are single occurrences.



Concept - An idea about a particular phenomenon people abstract from specific experiences. The idea includes all the properties that distinguish examples of the concept from all the non examples of the concept.


Flowering plants have flowers that develop into fruits, roots, stems, and leaves.

The following are also concepts: area, volume, density, flowers, energy, light, magnifying glass, animals, rock, soil, erosion, magnet, force,

Concepts summarize and categorize objects. The difficulty of learning a concept depends on the number of properties or characteristics, the abstractness or concreteness, and the reasoning that connects the properties or characteristics.

The abstractness of a concept is related to how the concept can be experienced.

Concepts are best introduced through physical observation and manipulation (hands on exploration). Followed by a grand conversation; that provides a concept name, other examples, and non examples. Some concepts can be experienced at all three levels: temperature hot - cold to touch, concrete as read on a thermometer, and the abstractness of average kinetic molecular energy.

Concepts can be made more concrete by defining them operationally.

Generalizations or Big Ideas

Generalizations are statements of a relationship between two or more concepts.


Generalizations are summary statements of relationships between concepts, summary statements of cause and effect, summary statements of predictions of future relationships, and a generalized condition of fact, all dogs have canines.

Notice generalizations require understanding of each concept to have meaning.

Generalizations are powerful as they provide a way to consolidate information to make it more usable and easier to remember. Laws, principals, and theories are all kinds of generalizations. These generalizations require the connection of concepts by a relationship.

Relationships can only be built with direct observational evidence and reasoning. Good teaching practices will mediate both.

More examples:


See planning and concept mapping.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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