Metaphorical use of language in educational discourse : a theoretical and empirical investigation
This thesis investigates metaphor used by teachers and textbook writers, and the impact on children. The theoretical investigation clarifies definitions and descriptions of metaphor, to establish a valid, adequate framework for analysis of metaphor in ordinary, contextualised interaction. A "prosaics of metaphor" is developed, including metaphor identification procedures, a set of graded descriptors of metaphor, and interactional units of analysis to investigate metaphor in talk. Theoretical issues of the coherence of the category "prosaic metaphor", and the relation between prosaic and poetic metaphor, are discussed. Two linked empirical investigations are centred around a ten year old child's discourse experience in a U.K. primary classroom. The first analyses transcribed talk, collected across several different lessons, for use of metaphor in relation to teaching/learning goals. Results include information on the frequency, distribution and nature of metaphor in use, and insights into how metaphor is signalled and supported in teacher-pupil interaction. Metaphor use is explained in terms of contextual demands, and the set of graded metaphor descriptors is refined. The second investigation uses a variation of Think Aloud methodology to explore understanding of metaphors in scientific texts. Analysis shows how knowledge brought to a text, selection of metaphors, the place of metaphor in text structure, and peer or adult mediation can influence understanding and learning. The study reveals how metaphor choice can oversimplify concepts and skills which children need to acquire in the middle years of education. Interaction is shown as central in providing access to new ideas through metaphor. These results carry implications for textbook writers, teachers, and others who may mediate content through metaphor. The thesis contributes to the field of metaphor studies through links found between child and adult use of metaphor, and through the development of tools for analysing metaphor in interaction, which can be refined and extended to other discourse contexts.