If the Wicked Witch of the West co-authored this week’s reading, it may have been subtitled,
I always know when I am enjoying a week more than others, based on the amount of effort I put into the reading and note taking. And without any sarcastic undertones, I can honestly say that this week was a huge time suck. Perhaps it is the “science-geek” in me that really favors learning about theories that are neurologically situated (I’m not a neurologist, and I don’t even play one on TV, but neurological research unquestionably fascinates me). Perhaps it is that I am a self-proclaimed Queen of Analogies. All I know is that this week really blew my hair back! Floated my boat! I really picked up what the authors were laying down! Hopefully, you are reading my mail, here. (OK… I think I’m done now.)
If you did not read, “Understanding Needs Embodiment: A Theory-Guided Reanalysis of the Role of Metaphors and Analogies in Understanding Science” (Neibert, Marsch, & Treagust, 2012), I highly recommend that you save the PDF for recreational reading at a later time. Although you may not profess to be the King, Queen, and/or Joker of Analogies in your classroom, there is no possible way that one can avoid using analogies/metaphors (and yes, there is a difference) within one’s day-to-day speech. The authors provide a simple example such as “I see your point” as a metaphorical representation of understanding and vision. As a teacher in a school with 20% of the population being in our International Program, I am very careful to explain some of our “weird” Canadian sayings— just this week I was explaining the analogy “Six of one and half dozen of the other.”
So what makes a great analogy/metaphor (a/m) versus an ineffective analogy/metaphor?
- Your a/m should utilize everyday embodied sources that ALSO can be imaginable—it is ineffective to use sources for our a/m that a student hasn’t any personal experience with and/or can not relate to.
- The learning goal (target domain) should involve a first or second-hand direct learning experience—have students actually touch things!
- Models can serve as an embodied source domain that enables reexperience and reflection opportunities surrounding abstract concepts.
- Recognize the limitations of the a/m: they may bring to light (“highlight”) the key ideas yet simultaneously misinform (“hide”) other related concepts.
Questions to chew on:
- What is your favorite analogy or metaphor to use in a science or math context? How do you know that it is an effective analogy? (It’s OK if you don’t!)
- Have you ever had an analogy or metaphor “backfire” on you?
Looks like I’m past my word count… time to make like a baby and head out!
P.S. In case you were curious…
Niebert, K., Marsch, S., & Treagust, D. F. (2012). Understanding needs embodiment: A theory‐guided reanalysis of the role of metaphors and analogies in understanding science. Science Education, 96(5), 849-877. http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1002/sce.21026
Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114. Full-text document retrieved on January 17, 2013, from: http://www.hitl.washington.edu/people/tfurness/courses/inde543/READINGS-03/WINN/winnpaper2.pdf