Analogy Training to Promote Science Learning
Effective Years: 2022-2025
The goal of this project is to develop and test methods for training powerful thinking skills. Specifically, the research will explore techniques for improving students' analogical reasoning ability. The history of science has shown analogy to be a powerful tool in scientific discovery. And there is abundant evidence from laboratory and classroom studies that analogical comparison can improve students' ability to learn, especially in mathematics and science. For example, reading that sound waves are analogous to water waves can give students insight into how sound behaves. Yet not all students benefit equally from analogical teaching. The first goal of the research is to discover how best to equip students with methods for engaging productively with analogical comparisons of all sorts—in short, to become better thinkers and learners. The second goal is to test whether acquiring these skills will improve students' ability to learn in a new scientific arena: evolution. Overall, this project will provide new insights into analogical reasoning and learning as a fundamental ability and into how it can be trained.
The project will develop an analogical training program for undergraduate students targeting three intersecting facets of analogical thinking: (1) strategies for processing analogical mappings, including aligning two examples, drawing inferences from one example to another, and noting key differences; (2) metacognitive insight into the nature and uses of analogical thinking; and (3) ability to recognize opportunities for comparison. In Phase 1, iterative design and experimental methods will be combined to develop and test training components. In Phase 2, a complete training program for improving analogical reasoning and supporting science content learning (specifically, about evolution) will be tested. A group that has received analogical training will be compared with a control group on their ability to learn from analogical comparisons in evolution and in other topics, using a pre-post design. They will be assessed in both short-term (immediately after instruction) and long-term (6-7 weeks later) learning. A pilot study will explore adapting the analogical training program for eighth graders in a classroom setting.
This project is funded by the EHR Core Research (ECR) program, which supports fundamental research on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.