Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever!

The above line depicts a poor use of analogy, an important language tool to convey and express ideas where words and phrases can prove inept. Analogy also spices up the sentence preventing it from getting monotonous. That is why analogy has been extensively used in rhetoric. An analogy creates a visual representation of the concept, making it easier to grasp the subject matter.

Analogy: the act or comparison of two things based on their being alike in some way, as defined in Merriam Webster. An important subject of discussion since early Greek philosophers to present day cognitive scientist, analogy has always been a tool used variously across different fields of study. Ubiquitously present in our everyday’ life, we encounter analogies in the form of exemplification, comparison, metaphor, simile, allegories and parables. Be it the analogy of explaining an atom to a solar system or use of parables and metaphors in mythology, analogies have always been useful in disseminating a new idea in a succinct yet flavoured way.

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How do analogies help?

In ancient Greek language the word analogia originally meant proportionality. They’re building blocks for our thoughts, written in the associative language of our brains. Analogies are handles to grasp a larger, more slippery idea. Our brains are association machines. Connections, relationships, patterns — we need meaning! Yet we present topics as if we could be programmed with raw information. Good analogies, can stimulate great feats of problem solving and discovery. They are a classical way to foster learning by applying prior knowledge to new concepts. A well framed instructional analogy can be of great help to a learner in creating new mental models by transferring knowledge from a new domain to an unknown domain. I have specifically used the word good analogy because a wrong analogy can give rise to misconceptions in a learners’ mind; an impediment to learning.

Analogies in teaching:

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Effective instructional analogies can be an important pedagogical tool for a teacher. It helps students understand concepts they are unfamiliar to and teacher can further build on them. It also helps in understanding of concepts which a child may not understand with the existing understanding of concepts with him. The idea is to help a child associate and assist him in reaching to the next concept. It also eases a child as he does not step into a completely new territory and finds it more comfortable when introduced to the new idea. I remember how I was introduced to gravity in space-time by linking it to an analogy of a big rubber sheet with balls of different masses and the con-cavity it makes on it. Comparison of solar system to atomic model is something we all remember. While discussing fractals, discuss the form of tree branches and then introduce to the concept of fractals. Have students draw their own analogies for what they have learnt. This can be a good way to peep into the learning models they have made and will also help them in thinking out of the box. Use these analogies to assess the learning of concepts. Not only for a child but thinking of analogies also help teachers to understand the concept in newer ways and explore new perspectives to it.

 

Caution! Analogies ahead:

Using effective analogies in teaching is an art indeed. A wrongly framed analogy can lead to various misconceptions and lead to a debacle in understanding. More so because of the strong effect of analogies in our mind, it may lead to serious impediment to our learning of further concepts. A wrong analogy can be mother to many fallacies. It is important for a teacher to first ensure whether the learner requires an analogy. If they are already familiar with the concept, avoid analogies. Pre testing in order to understand the learning levels (concepts) in a child can be helpful in deciding when and which analogy to use. Based on the age appropriateness, it is important for the child to understand what an analogy is and should not be taken literally. A misplaced analogy can create incorrect learning model in a child.

Nonetheless, analogies have always been around us and have served as a tool for effective teaching and understanding of the world around us. It is now on us to use them effectively and take them back to our classrooms for an effective teaching learning session.

 

By Prakhar Ghildyal – Regional Manager
(Member of Sales Team)

 

Prakhar Ghildyal

Prakhar Ghildyal

Prakhar is a management professional who has been working with Educational Initiatives and finds himself privileged to have this opportunity to have interacted with various stakeholders in the ecosystem. Writing is a hobby while reading is a habit which makes his day when he is not working. As a learner, the science of learning has always made him curious to understand the way learning happens from various angles and is always seeking ways in which it can be ameliorated. Keen to join discussions which are on science of learning, books or at least humorous.
Prakhar Ghildyal