Elaborate analogies in science text
May, Mary Catherine
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The present study was designed to examine the role of elaborate analogies in enhancing middle school students’ understanding of science text and their attitudes toward learning science concepts. In this study, eighth grade students were given a text with an elaborate analogy, a text with a simple analogy, and a control text with no analogy. An elaborate analogy consisted of pictorial components and text information in which similarities between the target concept and analog were made explicit. In addition, the students were given analogy activation instructions, to think of something the cell is analogous to or were simply told that they would be asked to recall information about a cell. Text learning was measured by conceptual drawings and explanations, students’ perceptions of interest, understanding, strategy, and selfefficacy. Analyses of variance were conducted. Qualitative responses from the students supplemented the quantitative data. The results indicated that elaborate analogies in text increased students’ conceptual understanding of science concepts, as reflected in their explanations and drawings. Students indicated that they were more interested in these concepts immediately after the treatment than three weeks later. Their understanding and self efficacy were also higher immediately after reading the text. The present findings suggest that elaborate analogies can be effectively used to enhance middle school students’ learning of concepts in science text. Future research should examine middle school students younger than eighth grade because this study showed that many eighth grade students already had developed their own cognitive strategies for remembering information, thus rendering the elaborate analogy redundant for these students. Future research should investigate the role of analogies created by students themselves on the understanding and retention of science concepts.