Collaborative research: Analogy Training to Promote Science Learning

Project: Research project

Project Details


Collaborative research: Analogy Training to Promote Science Learning In this proposal, we lay out an innovative approach to promoting science learning and reasoning, built on two primary claims: (1) Analogical thinking skills are critical for learning and reasoning in general, and particularly in science; and (2) Analogical thinking skills can be improved with training. That is, we propose that making analogical comparisons – aligning cases according to their structural commonalities – is integral to the learning and practice of science, and that improving students' analogical comparison skills thus has the potential to profoundly affect students' ability to learn and reason in science. Our ultimate aim is to move beyond helping students understand and learn from individual, idiosyncratic comparisons to provide them with an evidence-based, principled method for engaging productively with analogical comparisons of all sorts – in short, to become better learners and reasoners more generally. We test these ideas in the domain of evolution, focusing on middle-school instruction. Evolution is a fundamental idea of biology and a key topic in K-12 curricula; yet, difficulties and misconceptions persist even among undergraduate students. Northwestern University will serve as the lead institution, with PI Dedre Gentner and Co-PI Ken Forbus. The work will be carried out in collaboration with three other institutions: WestEd (Co-PI Bryan Matlen), Worcester State University (Co-PI Benjamin Jee), and College of the Holy Cross (Co-PI Flo Anggoro). The project will involve three partially overlapping phases: 1. Laboratory studies – this work will be conducted at NU, throughout the duration of the grant, but especially in Y1-Y2. The aim of these studies is to (a) develop and test effective methods for training analogical thinking and (b) pilot evolution teaching materials to ensure they are not too advanced for middle schoolers. These studies will involve running Psych 110 and paid undergraduate participants recruited from Northwestern and the surrounding areas. All institutions will collaborate in the conceptual work of these studies, and an internal meeting at NU is planned for Y1. 2. Teacher work circles – this work will be conducted in Worcester, MA at Holy Cross and WSU. The aim of these work circles is to collaborate with experienced teachers to further develop our analogical training and evolution teaching materials to be appropriate for use in middle school classrooms. With the help of a teacher professional development specialist, we will recruit 20 teachers to take part in an initial PD session to workshop these ideas in Y1. A small (~3) subset of teachers will then stay on as teacher consultants in Y2-Y4 to iterate instruction development and empirical lab testing. All institutions will collaborate in the conceptual work of these work circles, and internal meetings in Worcester are planned for Y2-Y4. 3. Classroom studies – this work will be managed by Holy Cross and WSU and conducted in middle schools in Worcester, MA. The aim of these studies is to test the efficacy of our materials and methods in middle school classrooms, and to discover where these methods are especially beneficial or challenging. We will recruit collaborators in school districts in and around Worcester, MA and run a series of smaller (1-2 classrooms) and larger (6-8 classrooms) studies in schools in Y2-Y4. As with all parts of this work, all institutions will collaborate in the conceptual work of these studies, which will be facilitated by the internal meet
Effective start/end date8/1/227/31/25


  • National Science Foundation (DRL-2201894 001)


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