Creative analogies for teaching

Contributor: Teryl Cartwright @TerylCartwright

Idea: Teaching creativity starts with creative instructional design, especially through utilizing the very structures or rules of your subject. Think of the key concepts of your discipline and try thinking about how you could use them as metaphors in teaching. For example, from biology take the idea of cell structure: what would the student say is the ‘nucleus’ of a lesson plan? What is the wall/barrier?  If the content learned is about music, what three notes of theirs go together to make a chord of complementary facts?

Practitioner comments: “Since students learn best through various approaches, why not change the generic instructional designs patterns and mirror the very creative and distinct identity of each unique discipline? I believe biology’s ID should look and feel distinct from geometry’s ID. For fun, I’ve even used geography’s orientation concept and art’s golden ratio as instructional designs for teaching leadership.”


5 thoughts on “Creative analogies for teaching

  1. As I read the idea, I thought about effective encoding of information. As stated in Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009), from an information processing perspective, human learning requires attention, perception, encoding, storage, and retrieval (p. 55). When you encode, you put new, incoming, information into the information processing system and prepare it to be stored in long-term memory; encoding encompasses making the new information meaningful and combining it with known information in long-term memory (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). Three factors have an influence on encoding, which are: 1) Organization; 2) Elaboration; and, 3) Schema structures. The first factor, organization, includes chunking information in an organized manner through classifying and grouping them, in this way, enhancing learning. In your idea, you state: “Think of the key concepts of your discipline and try thinking about how you could use them as metaphors in teaching. For example, from biology take the idea of cell structure”. You go further in asking the following questions: “what would the student say is the ‘nucleus’ of a lesson plan? What is the wall/barrier?”. I think that using such metaphors may help in organization of information into chunks comprising of, for example, a hierarchy entailing the nucleus, the barrier, etc. Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) state that organizing material well assists in learning and recall. The second factor, elaboration, entails expanding upon new information by adding to it or linking it to what one knows, and elaboration assists in encoding and retrieval (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). The students can practice elaborative rehearsal by relating the information to what they already know about biology, and their elaborations must make sense and be precise. The third factor, schemata, encompasses organizing large amounts of information into a meaningful system; any well-ordered sequence can represent a schema (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). A schema can help students learn biology when learning entails applying an ordered sequence of steps, for example, by learning the steps of prenatal development. Schemata are more beneficial during recall than during encoding.

    Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York, NY: Pearson

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