How Effective Is the Use of Analogies in Science Textbooks?

  • MaryKay Orgill


Science instructors and textbook authors often use analogies – both oral and textual – to help students learn new concepts. Textual analogies, in particular, are an omnipresent learning resource that students can consult when a teacher is not available to make new information more understandable. Additionally, because textbook authors can devote time and thought to constructing them, textual analogies have the potential of being more complete and explicit than oral analogies. However, research shows that many textual analogies are not explained appropriately or in enough detail to be helpful to students. In this chapter, I review the research literature about the use of analogies in science textbooks, focusing on the potential learning effects of textual analogies and the factors related to effective analogy use. I then summarize the results of several published analyses of analogy use in science textbooks and describe two classroom teaching models that could be used to promote the effective use of analogies in science textbooks.


Preservice Teacher Target Domain Pictorial Representation Meaningful Learning Target Concept 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Anolli, L., Antonietti, A., Crisafulli, L., & Cantoia, M. (2001). Accessing source information in analogical problem-solving. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A – Human Experimental Psychology, 54, 237–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arber, A. (1964). The mind and the eye: A study of the biologist’s standpoint. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Beall, H. (1999). The ubiquitous metaphors of chemistry teaching. Journal of Chemical Education, 76, 366–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bean, T. W., Searles, D., & Cowen, S. (1990). Text-based analogies. Reading Psychology, 11, 323–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bean, T. W., Searles, D., Singer, H., & Cowen, S. (1990). Learning concepts from biology text through pictorial analogies and an analogical study guide. The Journal of Educational Research, 83, 233–237.Google Scholar
  6. Beveridge, M., & Parkins, E. (1987). Visual representation in analogical problem solving. Memory & Cognition, 15, 230–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, A. (1989). Analogical learning and transfer: What develops? In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical reasoning (pp. 369–412). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, D. E. (1993). Refocusing core intuitions: A concretizing role for analogy in conceptual change. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30, 1273–1290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, D., & Clement, J. (1989). Overcoming misconceptions via analogical reasoning: Abstract transfer versus explanatory model construction. Instructional Science, 18, 237–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cardinale, L. A. (1993). Facilitating science by learning by embedded explication. Instructional Science, 21, 501–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clement, J. (1993). Using bridging analogies and anchoring intuitions to deal with students’ preconceptions in physics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30, 1241–1257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Curtis, R. V. (1988). When is a science analogy like a social studies analogy: A comparison of text analogies across two disciplines. Instructional Science, 17, 169–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Curtis, R., & Reigeluth, C. (1984). The use of analogies in written text. Instructional Science, 13, 99–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dagher, Z. R. (1995a). Analysis of analogies used by science teachers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32, 259–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dagher, Z. R. (1995b). Review of studies on the effectiveness of instructional analogies in science education. Science Education, 79, 295–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Donnelly, C. M., & McDaniel, M. A. (1993). Use of analogy in learning scientific concepts. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 19, 975–987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Duit, R. (1991). On the role of analogies and metaphors in learning science. Science Education, 75, 649–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fast, G. R. (1999). Analogies and reconstruction of probability knowledge. School Science and Mathematics, 99, 230–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Friedel, A. W., Gabel, D. L., & Samuel, J. (1990). Using analogs for chemistry solving: Does it increase understanding? School Science and Mathematics, 90, 674–682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gentner, D. (1983). Structure-mapping: A theoretical framework for analogy. Cognitive Science, 7, 155–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gentner, D. (1989). The mechanisms of analogical learning. In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical (pp. 199–241). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gentner, D., & Gentner, D. R. (1983). Flowing waters or teeming crowds: Mental models of electricity. In D. Gentner & A. L. Stevens (Eds.), Mental models (pp. 99–129). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Gentner, D., & Markman, A. B. (1997). Structure mapping in analogy and similarity. American Psychologist, 52, 45–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gick, M. L., & Holyoak, K. J. (1980). Analogical problem solving. Cognitive Psychology, 12, 306–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gilbert, S. W. (1989). An evaluation of the use of analogy, simile, and metaphor in science texts. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 26, 315–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Glynn, S. M. (1991). Explaining science concepts: A teaching-with analogies model. In S. Glynn, R. Yeany, & B. Britton (Eds.), The psychology of learning science (pp. 219–240). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  27. Glynn, S. (1995). Conceptual bridges: Using analogies to explain scientific concepts. The Science Teacher, 62, 24–27.Google Scholar
  28. Glynn, S. (1996). Teaching with analogies: Building on the science textbook (National Reading Research Center). The Reading Teacher, 49, 490–492.Google Scholar
  29. Glynn, S. M., & Duit, R. (1995). Learning science meaningfully: Constructing conceptual models. In S. M. Glynn & R. Duit (Eds.), Learning science in the schools: Research reforming practice (pp. 3–33). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  30. Glynn, S. M., & Takahashi, T. (1998). Learning from analogy-enhanced science text. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35, 1129–1149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Goswami, U. (1993). Analogical reasoning in children. Hove: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  32. Harrison, A. G., & Treagust, D. F. (1993). Teaching with analogies: A case study in grade-10 optics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30, 1291–1307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Harrison, A. G., & Treagust, D. F. (1996). Secondary students’ mental models of atoms and molecules: Implications for teaching chemistry. Science Education, 80, 509–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Harrison, A. G., & Treagust, D. F. (2000). Learning about atoms, molecules, and chemical bonds: A case study of multiple-model use in grade 11 chemistry. Science Education, 84, 352–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hayes, D. A., & Tierney, R. J. (1982). Developing readers’ knowledge through analogy. Reading Research Quarterly, 17, 256–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Holyoak, K. J., & Koh, K. (1987). Surface and structural similarity in analogical transfer. Memory & Cognition, 15, 332–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Holyoak, K. J., & Thagard, P. R. (1989). A computational model of analogical problem solving. In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical reasoning (pp. 242–266). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hurt, J. A. (1985). A function-based comparison of illustrations providing literal and analogical representations on comprehension of expository prose. Paper presented at the annual convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Anaheim, CA.Google Scholar
  39. Hurt, J. A. (1987). Assessing functional effectiveness of pictorial representations used in text. Educational Communication and Technology Journal, 35, 85–94.Google Scholar
  40. Iding, M. K. (1997). How analogies foster learning from science texts. Instructional Science, 25, 233–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kaufman, D. R., Patel, V. L., & Magder, S. A. (1996). The explanatory role of spontaneously generated analogies in reasoning about physiological concepts. International Journal of Science Education, 18, 369–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Klauer, K. J. (1989). Teaching for analogical transfer as a means of improving problem solving. Instructional Science, 18, 179–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lemke, J. L. (1990). Talking science: Language, learning, and values. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  44. Mason, L., & Sorzio, P. (1996). Analogical reasoning in restructuring scientific knowledge. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 11, 3–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Newton, L. D. (2003). The occurrence of analogies in elementary school science books. Instructional Science, 31, 353–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Orgill, M. (2003). Playing with a double-edged sword: Analogies in biochemistry. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.Google Scholar
  47. Orgill, M., & Bodner, G. M. (2006). An analysis of the effectiveness of analogy use in college-level biochemistry textbooks. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43, 1040–1060.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Paris, N. A., & Glynn, S. M. (2004). Elaborate analogies in science text: Tools for enhancing preservice teachers’ knowledge and attitudes. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 29, 230–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Raviolo, A., & Garritz, A. (2009). Analogies in the teaching of chemical equilibrium: A synthesis/analysis of the literature. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 10, 5–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Simons, P. R. J. (1984). Instructing with analogies. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 513–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Solomon, I. (1994). Analogical transfer and functional fixedness in the science classroom. The Journal of Educational Research, 87, 371–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Spencer, R. M., & Weisberg, R. W. (1986). Context-dependent effects on analogical transfer. Memory & Cognition, 14, 442–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Spiro, R. J., Feltovich, P. J., Coulson, R. L., & Anderson, D. K. (1989). Multiple analogies for complex concepts: antidotes for analogy-induced misconception in advanced knowledge acquisition. In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical reasoning (pp. 498–531). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Thagard, P. (1992). Analogy, explanation, and education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29, 537–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Thiele, R. B., & Treagust, D. F. (1992). Analogies in senior high school chemistry textbooks: A critical analysis. Paper presented at the ICASE Research Conference in Chemistry Education, Dortmund.Google Scholar
  56. Thiele, R. B., & Treagust, D. F. (1994a). An interpretive examination of high school chemistry teachers’ analogical explanations. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, 227–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Thiele, R. B., & Treagust, D. F. (1994b). The nature and extent of analogies in secondary chemistry textbooks. Instructional Science, 22, 61–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Thiele, R. B., & Treagust, D. F. (1995). Analogies in chemistry textbooks. International Journal of Science Education, 17, 783–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thiele, R. B., Venville, G. J., & Treagust, D. F. (1995). A comparative analysis of analogies in secondary biology and chemistry textbooks used in Australian schools. Research in Science Education, 25, 221–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Treagust, D. F. (1993). The evolution of an approach for using analogies in teaching and learning science. Research in Science Education, 23, 293–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Treagust, D. F., Harrison, A. G., & Venville, G. J. (1996). Using an analogical teaching approach to engender conceptual change. International Journal of Science Education, 18, 213–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Treagust, D. F., Harrison, A. G., & Venville, G. J. (1998). Teaching science effectively with analogies: An approach for preservice and inservice teacher education. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 9, 85–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Unsworth, L. (2001). Evaluating the language of different types of explanations in junior high school science texts. International Journal of Science Education, 23, 585–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Venville, G. J., Bryer, L., & Treagust, D. F. (1994). Training students in the use of analogies to enhance understanding in science. Australian Science Teachers Journal, 40, 60–66.Google Scholar
  65. Venville, G. J., & Treagust, D. F. (1997). Analogies in biology education: A contentious issue. The American Biology Teacher, 59, 282–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zook, K. B. (1991). Effects of analogical processes on learning and misrepresentation. Educational Psychology Review, 3, 41–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zook, K. B., & DiVesta, F. J. (1991). Instructional analogies and conceptual misrepresentations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 246–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zook, K. B., & Maier, J. M. (1994). Systematic analysis of variables that contribute to the formation of analogical misconceptions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 589–699.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of Nevada, Las VegasLas VegasUSA

Personalised recommendations