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Uncovering the structure of metaphorical lay theories of teaching II : What do different teaching metaphors imply about students?


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Metaphor plays a critical role in how people communicate and conceptualize complex activities like teaching. For example, a professor might be described as molding impressionable students (teacher as a sculptor), or helping students grow (teacher as a gardener). Prior research has largely focused on what metaphors like these communicate about the role of teachers, but many teaching metaphors simultaneously describe the role of students (e.g., students as clay; students as plants). We aimed to extend previous work with a recently developed method for mapping the structure of metaphorical concepts to examine the metaphorical entailments associated with students, rather than teachers. We presented participants recruited online with one of four common metaphors for the teacher-student relationship and found that different metaphors consistently bring to mind distinct, coherent clusters of student attributes and different intuitions about teacher and student responsibility and power – a finding we replicated with a larger sample and pre-registered analysis. Together with previous findings, this research suggests that teaching metaphors can efficiently capture and communicate structured beliefs about both teacher and student attributes.

Keywords: concepts; lay theories; metaphors; students; teaching

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 20, 2022

This article was made available online on April 21, 2022 as a Fast Track article with title: "Uncovering the structure of metaphorical lay theories of teaching II: What do different teaching metaphors imply about students?".

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