A Comparative Analysis of Pre-Service Teacher Analogies Generated For Process and Structure Concepts

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Katharyn Ellen Ketter Nottis
Jacqueline McFarland


Although pre-service teachers may use a variety of instructional analogies to facilitate conceptual understanding of abstract or unobservable ideas, little is known about the analogies they create. This exploratory study was undertaken to determine the effectiveness of science analogies generated by pre-service teachers and whether those analogies varied according to the abstractness of concepts. Sixty, upper-level, pre-service teachers were asked to generate and explain analogies for two science concepts found in elementary texts, the Earth's interior structure and heat conduction in solids. The Earth's layered interior was categorized as a structure concept and heat conduction in solids was identified as a process concept. Each generated analogy was then evaluated using a five-point validity scale that examined the extent to which it accounted for critical aspects of the concepts. Explanations about the generated analogies were also examined to determine conceptual understanding and detect misconceptions. Results showed a significant difference in the validity of analogies created to illustrate a process concept and those created to illustrate a structure concept. Generated analogies also revealed misconceptions about particulate matter, which could compromise their effectiveness for teaching about heat conduction. Implications for generating and using analogies, teacher preparation programs, and future research were addressed.

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Author Biographies

Katharyn Ellen Ketter Nottis

Bucknell University

Jacqueline McFarland

Niagara University