Thinking and working scientifically: The role of analogical and mental models

Year: 2001

Author: Harrison, Allan

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Analogical reasoning is a popular mode of communication but is inconsistently used in school classrooms. Some teachers use analogies and models to explain science concepts while other teachers see them as two-edged swords. A better understanding of analogical reasoning is the aim of this research. Past research and current understandings are presented and the difficulties involved in accessing students' and teachers' mental models are discussed. The literature is analysed and a series of questions for future research proposed. In essence, the paper asks: can a rigorous method be found to effectively explore students' and teachers' evolving ideas during analogical model interactions? In other words, do deeply held knowledge, mental models and classroom experiences merge during analogical thinking; and in what ways is this interaction an amalgam of the social setting, the model itself and students' current and past ideas? Previous research suggests useful avenues to pursue and these are explored in the paper.