Analogies in teaching science

Some concepts in science are hard and just by explaining the content conceptual understanding can be difficult to achieve. One of the functional approaches is using metaphors and analogies in explaining these things. However one should be extremely careful on how to use it. Within the SPOON project we had the opportunity to explore different ways on how to teach critical thinking in a workshop in Utrecht in December 2019.

In this video which was made by our Croatian partner from Science Factory one of those topics from the workshop was placed in a teaching context. We are referring here to studies that suggest how students become remarkably better problem solvers when we introduce in teaching practices analogies and their analysis. There has been a lot of research done on the effectiveness of analogies in education, Matlen et al.  2011, Vendetti et al. 2015, Brown et al. 2010 just to name a few. To establish a cognitive support it helps to present analogies visually and video can be used as one of the visual enhancers. Spatial clues and storytelling helps as well while different analogies are highlighting different relationships. More detailed video about the use of analogies in practice will be about the speed of electric current. Now we will remain within the realms of the structure of the matter and basic states in which matter can be found.

This video is an adaptation to the game usually played in the classroom but because of epidemiological measures due to the Sars-Cov-2 outbreak it is not possible to play it. Since we, as SPOON project partners, are constantly rethinking and questioning our approaches, sharing best practices and above all experiences the virus has opened up the opportunity to grow. In this video molecular kinetic theory is explained with the analogy of a particle dance. The famous jiggle which was popularized by Richard Feynman was an inspiration for the game, and the game was an inspiration for the video while the video was just a challenge to explain the concept by placing the context in a story. 

Maybe it sounds strange but take a look at the video and share your impressions on the YouTube comment section. This is a story of molecular dance in a solid state of matter, while at the same time explaining the connection between internal energy and volume of the body. Turn on the subtitles and dance with us. If you feel that you can not follow the pace remember how there is an option to change the playback speed in video settings.

And do notice the subtle blue frame around the screen representing the lower temperature. With the following videos Bojan will take you to other states of matter and the frame warmth will change as well

Why is it SPOON compatible?
Because it is a partners questioning of its own practices, disrupted by the pandemic and distance learning. By exploring different ways of sharing the key message behind the project how science teaching is not only about the content.

Cite this blog post
BojMark (2021, July 2). Analogies in teaching science. SPOON Open Notebook SPOON . Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

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