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Abstract

This article reports an interpretive examination of four teachers' use of analogies to teach chemistry. The study describes why the teachers chose to use analogies, how the characteristics of the analogies employed varied from teacher to teacher, and from where the teachers derived their analogies. These teachers used analogies spontaneously, as well as on a planned basis, to explain abstract chemistry concepts both on a whole-class basis and for individual students who indicated a lack of understanding. The teachers appeared able to ascertain that the students required an alternative representation without overtly seeking evidence to this effect. The presented analogies, especially those that were of the simple-comparison type, appeared to have a motivational impact on the students. Several analogies were extended to map selected attributes, and these were believed by the teachers to be powerful explanatory devices. Pictorial analogies were frequently used to enhance analog familiarity, and further analog explanation was not uncommon, although the frequency with which the teachers stated the presence of analogical limitations was low. The article concludes by suggesting how science teacher education can be informed by case studies of teaching in context, in this instance of analogy-inclusive teaching by four experienced chemistry teachers.