New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Reconsidering Spontaneous Analogical Reasoning through the Knowledge in Pieces Mechanism

Nikolaos Fotou, Lincoln University, School of Education (United Kingdom)

Ian Abrahams, University of Lincoln (United Kingdom)


Much of the science education literature on analogical reasoning points to the benefits of analogies in helping students familiarize themselves with concepts, phenomena and situations they find abstract and difficult to understand. The conceptual benefits from such a use of analogies seem increasingly clear, as there is evidence from studies in which students were provided with an analogy, were taught how to use and, as a consequence, reached a better understanding of the concept, phenomenon, or situation they were unfamiliar with in the first place. This paper does not contradict the efficacy of such a use of analogies, but shifts attention to students’ self-generated analogies, as opposed to taught analogies where students do not generate the analogy but are asked to use and reason with it. It discusses how the ‘knowledge-in-pieces framework’, according to which knowledge is viewed as a complex system composed of fundamental knowledge elements that are activated in response to a particular situation, can be used for viewing the relationship and interaction of students’ knowledge with their spontaneous analogical reasoning. Data are drawn from small focus group discussions in which students of the same age group (9-10, 11-12, 12-13, 14-15, 16-17) were asked to explain predictions they made when presented with novel situations they had not seen before. The role of students’ spontaneous analogical reasoning in these explanations is examined along with the knowledge they drew upon in order to make their predictions. The findings underscore the need to consider students’ analogical reasoning and how their existing knowledge affects this reasoning which, in turn, impacts on their understanding of unfamiliar situations and phenomena.

Keywords: Spontaneous Analogies, Analogical Reasoning, Knowledge-in-pieces, P-prims;

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