University of Maryland Physics Education Research Group


UMD PERG PhD Dissertations: Leslie J. Atkins

PERG Info | PERG materials | PERG HOMEPAGE | PER on the web | Resources on the web

Analogies as categorization phenomena: Studies from scientific discourse

Leslie J. Atkins, Doctor of Philosophy, 2004

Dissertation directed by: Professor David Hammer, Departments of Physics and Curriuculum & Instruction


Studies on the role of analogies in science classrooms have tended to focus on analogies that come from the teacher or curriculum, and not the analogies that students generate. Such studies are derivative of an educational system that values content knowledge over scientific creativity, and derivative of a model of teaching in which the teacher's role is to convey content knowledge. This dissertation begins with the contention that science classrooms should encourage scientific thinking and one role of the teacher is to model that behavior and identify and encourage it in her students. One element of scientific thinking is analogy. This dissertation focuses on student-generated analogies in science, and offers a model for understanding these. I provide evidence that generated analogies are assertions of categorization, and the base of an analogy is the constructed prototype of an ad hoc category. Drawing from research on categorization, I argue that generated analogies are based in schemas and cognitive models. This model allows for a clear distinction between analogy and literal similarity; prior to this research analogy has been considered to exist on a spectrum of similarity, differing from literal similarity to the degree that structural relations hold but features do not. I argue for a definition in which generated analogies are an assertion of an unexpected categorization: that is, they are asserted as contradictions to an expected schema.

Table of Contents

Front matter (Note: Page numbers in the Table of Contents
do not match this single-spaced version.)
Chapter 1 Introduction and Major Themes
Chapter 2 Review of the Literature
Chapter 3 Origins of the Study & Methodological Considerations
Chapter 4 Phenomenological Coherence
Chapter 5 The Ontology of Mind
Chapter 6
Analogies in the History of Science
Chapter 7
Implications for Instruction
Chapter 8
Summary & Directions for Future Research
Back to UMD PERG PhD Dissertations

Information about PERG Resource materials from PERG PERG Homepage PER elsewhere on the web Resource materials for teachers

Maintained by University of Maryland PERG
Com8ments and questions may be directed to E. F. Redish
Last modified 22 April 2005