Overcoming misconceptions : using bridging analogies to cue scientific ideas
Pupils come to physics lessons with some scientifically wrong ideas, sometimes referred to as misconceptions but often just misplaced conceptions; correct in some contexts but not in others. It is often difficult to change these misconceptions. Analogy has long been used to aid understanding of scientific concepts. However, the jump between analogue and target is sometimes too great, possibly because the similarity of the features compared is not significant enough. To improve mapping of similarities, bridges can be used which are part way between the analogue (anchor) and target. The anchor usually involves concrete phenomena where the pupils' intuitive ideas agree with the scientific view. This research looks at the use of bridging analogies in overcoming misconceptions in several topics. The conclusion is that, short-term, `traditional' teaching gives better results whereas the bridging analogy approach may give better long-term retention of concepts. Rather than trying to overtly use analogy, it may be more effective and less time consuming to cue the right idea using analogy on a very low key level, without the pupils realising that an analogy has been used. The idea of cueing correct ideas comes from work done by diSessa and others on phenomenological primitives (pprims). These are small knowledge units which are cued to an active state to explain phenomena. It is hoped the correct p-prim will be cued by use of the analogy and, if cued repeatedly, will strengthen. Again, research is carried out in several topics. The results are interesting. Generally, during the bridging analogy approaches, there is an increase in the sense of the scientific explanation for the experimental group even though they do not know why they have become surer of that explanation. However, the control group has sometimes shown a decrease in the sense of the scientific explanation. Although cueing p-prims is quick and easy to do using low-key analogies, it only works in the short-term and pupils need to understand concepts for long-term success which may be done more effectively using bridging analogies taught in a more overt manner.