Thinking across Cultures

By Donald M. Topping; Doris C. Crowell et al. | Go to book overview
in the solutions of expert scientists and mathematicians ( Clement, 1981, 1986, in press). These findings support the position of Perkins ( 1981) that many creative reasoning processes are ordinary thinking processes used with special purposes in mind, not unanalyzable acts of "genius." This suggests that analogies are an intuitive form of reasoning that could be tapped or taken advantage of in instruction to a greater extent than is currently done.Analogical reasoning has important potential applications in education. Scholars such as Hesse ( 1966) argue that analogies play an important role in thinking via scientific models; this suggests that they may play an important role in science instruction. Teachers use analogies instinctively because they believe that relating new topics to situations students are already familiar with makes new knowledge understandable and is an important way to help new knowledge become deeply rooted. In addition, the ability, when faced with an unfamiliar problem, to think of an analogous problem for which one already has a solution method, is an important method for widening the scope of transfer. The successful transfer of established knowledge and skills to new areas is recognized as a key indicator of understanding.Some of the pedagogical directions that seem worth pursuing in this area are as follows.
1. One can attempt to form compelling analogies between a number of examples when introducing an abstract principle.
2. Catalogues of analogies generated by students can be assembled, organized by topic areas. The best analogies could be used in teaching and curriculum development as intuitive examples that make sense to students.
3. One can also assemble catalogues of intuitive knowledge structures possessed by students that are in rough agreement with scientific theory (such as the idea that a greater force can produce more motion in an object starting from rest). Such intuitions could serve as anchors for grounding more complex ideas if they can be extended to other situations by analogy. See Clement ( 1987) for a description of a teaching experiment using this approach.

The fact that many students did generate and use analogies in this study suggests that students possess a store of practical knowledge from concrete experiences which is quite rich, and possess the ability to relate this store of experiences fairly flexibly to new situations. Thus, there is reason to be optimistic that it is worthwhile to design curriculum units which attempt to use analogies in instruction.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Research reported here was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation # MDR8470579.

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