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  • 1.
    Stadig Degerman, Mari
    et al.
    Linköpings universitet, Sweden.
    Larsson, Caroline
    Linköpings universitet, Sweden.
    When metaphors come to live – at the interface of a visualization and students’ meaning-making of dynamic chemical processes2011Konferensbidrag (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    In molecular life science phenomena exist on a sub-micro scale and are not readily accessible for learners. Here tools, as external representations and metaphorical language, become essential for students’ learning. Metaphorical language is often used to relate abstract concepts to more familiar ideas from everyday life. For successful meaning-making students need to be familiar with the concepts being compared and know which characteristics of the metaphor are relevant and should be conveyed to the conceptual domain. There is a need for students to interpret and focus on certain given aspects and also on deviances between the two domains. Students’ prior knowledge of the real life domain as well as the scientific domain, then becomes the foundation for students’ learning. Furthermore, the metaphor itself mediates new meaning and new ways to interpret the natural world in interaction with learners, and this has an impact on students’ conceptualization of the concept the metaphor is describing. The objective of this study was, i) to explore which metaphors students tend to use while interacting with two external representations of dynamic molecular processes, and ii) to describe what connections between the scientific concept and the identified metaphors students made, both useful connections and potential pitfalls. The first representation is an animation visualizing the formation of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in a metabolic process in the cell. The second is a physical model of self-assembly of a virus capsid. The empirical material analysed consisted of ten audio-recorded group discussions with university students (n=59). The students had completed basic courses in chemistry and molecular biology. A pre-formulated discussion guideline was used and the students had access to the external representation during the whole session. A qualitative analysis was performed using an inductive analytical model. The preliminary analysis showed that students used several metaphors, for example water mill, paddle wheel, ball, and chief, to create meaning to the scientific concepts while interacting with the two representations. The following analysis will examine to what degree the metaphors possess characteristics that can mislead and tempt students to use parts of the iconographic representation that are not relevant for understanding the represented phenomenon. With these results we can clarify how far the metaphors, and thereby the representations, reach and thus make valuable implications for education.

  • 2.
    Stadig Degerman, Mari
    et al.
    Linköpings universitet, Institutionen för teknik och naturvetenskap.
    Larsson, Caroline
    Linköpings universitet, Institutionen för samhälls- och välfärdsstudier.
    Anward, Jan
    Linköpings universitet, Institutionen för kultur och kommunikation.
    When metaphors come to life: at the interface of external representations, molecular processes and student learning2012Ingår i: International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, ISSN 1306-3065, Vol. 7, nr 4, s. 563-580Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat)
    Abstract [en]

    When studying the molecular aspect of the life sciences, learners must be introduced to somewhat inaccessible phenomena that occur at the sub-micro scale. Despite the difficulties, students need to be familiar with and understand the highly dynamic nature of molecular processes. Thus, external representations1 (ERs) can be considered unavoidable and essential tools for student learning. Besides meeting the challenge of interpreting external representations, learners also encounter a large array of abstract concepts2, which are challenging to understand (Orgill & Bodner, 2004). Both teachers and learners use metaphorical language as a way to relate these abstract phenomena to more familiar ones from everyday life. Scientific papers, as well as textbooks and popular science articles, are packed with metaphors, analogies and intentional expressions. Like ERs, the use of metaphors and analogies is inevitable and necessary when communicating knowledge concerning molecular phenomena. Therefore, a large body of published research related to metaphors concerns science teachers’ and textbook writers’ interpretation and use of metaphors (Harrison & Treagust, 2006). In this paper we present a theoretical framework for examining metaphorical language use in relation to abstract phenomena and external representations. The framework was verified by using it to analyse students’ meaning-making in relation to an animation representing the sub-microscopic and abstract process of ATP-synthesis in Oxidative Phosphorylation. We seek to discover the animator’s intentions while designing the animation and to identify the metaphors that students use while interacting with the animation. Two of these metaphors serve as examples of a metaphor analysis, in which the characteristics of metaphors are outlined. To our knowledge,  no strategies to identify and understand the characteristics, benefits, and potential pitfalls of particular metaphors have, to date, been presented in science education research. Our aspiration is to contribute valuable insights into metaphorical language use at the interface between external representations, molecular processes, and student learning.

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