Sunday, November 09, 2008

Post festum analogies

In recent work I have been looking into analogies that arise in authoritative and dialogic discourse-- the former being those analogies generated, primarily, by teachers and curricula for the acquisition of scientific concepts, the latter being generated by participants in a discussion trying to make meaning and share their ideas to understand phenomena. This arose from a dissatisfaction with Structure Mapping models of analogy -- it struck me as too propositional, too wedded to language-as-unambiguous, and depicting thinking as information processing-- and yet too correct (its implications verified experimentally) to be out-and-out wrong. So rather than providing an alternative to Structure Mapping (my first stab at understanding analogy), I'm carving out a space (dialogic discourse) that might better be served by looking at analogies through another lens.

Today I came across a paper that notes a similar distinction-- "post festum" analogies (analogies that arise after one understands the target concept) and heuristic analogies (the analogies that guide and shape understanding of a topic). From Wilbers and Duit, 2006:
Currently employed theoretical approaches emphasize the role of propositionally based knowledge in analogical reasoning. The above considerations suggest that propositionally based knowledge is solely employed in the construction of post-festum analogies. The rule-based inferences of the post-festum analogy operate on propositional structures. In accordance with various other authors we expect non-propositional knowledge based on visual imagery to be of the essence in the heuristic use of analogies. Zeitoun (1984) underlines the significance of visual imagery for analogical reasoning and mental images, so mental models seem to be of the essence. Clement (1993) takes regard of abstract imagery that he calls intuitive schemata. Sfard (1994) shares the view that image schemata are crucial for analogy use while Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and Johnson (1987) arrive at equivalent terms with respect to metaphors using the notion of embodied schemata. Taking a cognitive point of view, analogy hinges on pictorial rather than on propositional elements of cognition, such as intuitive schemata, mental images, mental models, etc.
While I wouldn't characterize dialogic analogies as necessarily heuristic (they may even be post-festum, or "after the fact"), their attention to, and critique of, the propositional nature of structure mapping is useful, as is the recognition that a post-hoc analogy serves different conceptual goals and may arise from a different cognitive mechanism than analogies that students use to guide their thinking.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mentioned on listserv.

A recent post on several listservs[1] mentioned 32 education blogs. Listed was this blog, which hasn't been updated in a while. In the past year I've begun a position as an assistant professor in physics & science education at CSU, Chico. Over the next weeks I hope to update with topics related to recent readings and current research interests.

Current research interests:
- designing open-ended curriculum
- understanding the genesis and development of scientific representations
- analogies as representations (generated analogies as models)
- scientific argument

Underlying all of these topics is the distinction between logic and understanding-- both the cognitive/brain side of things (why it is that proofs are not convincing? what kinds of narratives are convincing?) and the socially-mediated side of things (what counts as a proof? to what communities? how does that reflect what it means to 'understand' in science?).

Particulary intriguing (& related to the research interests) right now is Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, Giere's work on representation, and studies from conversation analysis & discourse analysis on how to extract meaning from utterances.

[1] Hake, R.R. 2008. "Thirty-two Education Blogs," AERA-L post of 7 Nov 2008 16:38:18-080; online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives; abstract only to AERA-A, AERA-B, AERA-C, AERA-D, AERA-GS, AERA-H, AERA-J, AERA-K, AERA-L, AP-Physics, ASSESS, Biopi-L, Chemed-L, DrEd, EdResMeth, EvalTalk, IFETS, Math-Learn, Math-Teach, Net-Gold, Physhare, Phys-L, PhysLrnR, POD, PsychTeacher (rejected), RUME, STLHE-L, TeachEdPsych, TIPS, & WBTOLL-L.