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The role of analogies in promoting conceptual change in biology

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Four analogies which were used to teach biology topics by four different teachers were analysed from different theoretical perspectives to determine the key role they had to play in the process of conceptual change. A supermarket analogy for the classification of living things was described using the Posner et al. (1982) view of conceptual change as having the role of a sense maker. A car cooling system analogy for human temperature homeostasis was found to play the role of a memory aid and was best explained by considering Vosniadou's (1994) framework theory and mental models perspective of conceptual change. A fluid mosaic analogy for cell membranes was used by the teacher as a transformer and was best explained by Chi et al.'s (1994) ontological category perspective of conceptual change. Finally, a bucket and pump analogy used to teach the stucture and function of the heart was described as a motivator and was viewed through the motivational perspective of conceptual change of Pintrich et al. (1993). The paper concludes that learning in different situations can best be explained by different perspectives of conceptual change and that these perspectives have much to tell us about the “normal” shifts in conceptual understanding as well as “radical” conceptual change.

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Venville, G.J., Treagust, D.F. The role of analogies in promoting conceptual change in biology. Instr Sci 24, 295–320 (1996).

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