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Abstract

For the past two decades, a growing amount of research has shown that the use of analogies in science teaching and learning promotes meaningful understanding of complex scientific concepts (Gentner, 1983; Glynn, 1989; Harrison & Treagust, 1993; Wong, 1993). This article presents a study in which multiple analogies were used as scaffolding to link students' prior understanding of daily life events to knowledge of the scientific domain. The study was designed to investigate how multiple analogies influence student learning of a complex scientific concept: the electric circuit. We used several analogies in a set of learning materials to present the concepts of parallel and series circuits. Thirty-two fourth graders participated in this study and were randomly assigned to four groups. The four groups were named nonanalogy (control), single analogy, similar analogies, and complementary analogies, according to the materials they used in this study. The results demonstrated that using analogies not only promoted profound understanding of complex scientific concepts (such as electricity), but it also helped students overcome their misconceptions of these concepts. In particular, we found that the reason the students had difficulty understanding the concept of electricity was because of their ontological presupposition of the concept. Implications for teaching and learning are discussed. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 42: 429–464, 2005