Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Priming the Pump - Optimizing Science Learning Through Analogy

If you get a chance, check out the first link below from a Dartmouth presentation entitled, Mechanisms of Learning and Understanding in Science. It raises interesting issues about reasoning and problem solving in general, and optimal environments or ways to education.

When researchers studed how top molecular biology labs conducted their research, they found that causal reasoning re: unexpected findings was driving much of the reasoning and analogical reasoning was used for hypothesis and explanations.

When the process of analogical reasoning was studied, there appeared to be a two-part process - first, there had to be multiple potential areas for overlap, second there had to be a decision to integrate or select the best fit between the two. The multiple conceptual binding step is shown below.

The integration step is much more focal.

The presentation goes onto compare museum exhibit learning experiences, and makes a persuasive case for successful exhibits having multiple conceptual binding points - like "things to notice", "vocabulary necessary to discuss it", "pictures that relate it to real world phenomena", "questions that lead them to notice salient aspects of the exhibit."

Analogical reasoning can appear as early as the kindergarten or early elementary school years, but Dunbar's work reminded us that in order to be successful, the pump needs to be primed. Everyone comes with different experiences, familiarity, and observational skills - if we want students to really learn analogical reasoning and not simply memorize the right answers, then education and experience "in steps" might be in order first.

Some other nice links we came across...analogy is also important in people science - conflict resolution and successful negotiation.

Analogy, Learning, and Discovery pdfReasoning by Analogy and fMRI
Criteria for Analogical Arguments
Development of Analogical Reasoning in Children
Scientific Reasoning and Thinking
Analogy in Negotiation

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