Metaphors in the Learning of Science: a discourse focus
Children's interpretations of metaphors used in a science text and their teacher's use of explanatory metaphor are analysed and compared to identify key processes in metaphor understanding and to suggest factors that contribute to successful use of metaphor in learning science. The research adopts a Vygotskian socio-cognitive approach to metaphor in discourse. Participants are children in Years 5 and 6, aged around 10 years, and their teacher, in a UK school. The data include think-aloud protocols and teacher-led classroom discourse, analysed for metaphor processing. Sample episodes from the data are used to illustrate how conceptual knowledge is used to interpret metaphor, and how the learning potential of metaphor may be rendered ineffective by interpretation problems or by the choice of metaphor. The mediation of metaphor by a skilled teacher reveals strategies for avoiding such problems and maximising the impact of metaphor on the learning of the formalised concepts of science.