Overcoming misconceptions via analogical reasoning: abstract transfer versus explanatory model construction

David E Brown, John Clement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In most work investigating factors influencing the success of analogies in instruction, an underlying assumption is that students have little or no knowledge of the target situation (the situation to be explained by analogy). It is interesting to ask what influences the success of analogies when students believe they understand the target situation. If this understanding is not normative, instruction must aim at conceptual change rather than simply conceptual growth. Through the analysis of four case studies of tutoring interviews (two of which achieved some noticeable conceptual change and two of which did not) we propose a preliminary list of factors important for success in overcoming misconceptions via analogical reasoning. First, there must be a usable anchoring conception. Second, the analogical connection between an anchoring example and the target situation may need to be developed explicitly through processes such as the use of intermediate, "bridging" analogies. Third, it may be necessary to engage the student in a process of analogical reasoning in an interactive teaching environment, rather than simply presenting the analogy in tetext or lecture. Finally, the result of this process may need to be more than analogical transfer of abstract relational structure. The analogies may need to be used to enrich the target situation, leading to the student's construction of a new explanatory model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-261
Number of pages25
JournalInstructional Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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