Analogies in the mind and in the classroom: Translating the cognitive science of analogical learning into science education practice

28th January 2020 : 17:00 - 18:30

Category: Seminar

Speaker: Matthew Slocombe, Birkbeck, University of London

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Room K/L

Seminar Abstract


Our ability to form analogies is a process that lays at the heart of how we learn. They afford our conceptual system with the ability to use existing knowledge as a scaffold in the construction of new knowledge. For example, by understanding that mitochondria are analogous to batteries, relational information associated with a battery concept (supplies energy) can be transferred and used in the construction of a mitochondria concept. Understanding the mechanisms involved in this process thus holds great potential for translation into educational methods. However, whilst analogical learning is a fundamental learning process, it is also highly constrained by various developmental factors. In this presentation, I will describe studies that investigate these developmental factors as well as methods for supporting young children’s analogical learning. The first study used a cross-sectional design with 4-8-year-old children to identify the relative contributions of conceptual development, working memory and inhibitory control in their ability to learn with analogies. The second study used an experimental design with 5-7-year-old children to test relational priming as a method of focusing children’s attention on the concepts necessary to solve a subsequent set of analogy problems. Finally, I will discuss how similar relational priming methods can be used for teaching science concepts to primary and secondary school children and describe ongoing studies aimed at testing these methods.


About the speaker


Matthew Slocombe is a final year PhD student at the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, Birkbeck, University of London. His work investigates the developmental mechanisms of children’s analogical reasoning and the use of analogies in teaching and learning. He also sits on the council of the education thinktank Learnus and is involved in several Learnus projects that aim to bridge the gap between cognitive science and education practice.