Thesis

The effects of metaphorical graphics in physics instruction

The current investigation was designed to examine whether metaphors, when presented as a graphic or as a text, help to increase learners’ understanding of unfamiliar concepts in physics—specifically the functionality of electrical circuits. One-hundred and eighty-eight undergraduate volunteers read one of two texts explaining electrical circuits, in terms standard physics terminology or in terms of a metaphor for electrical circuits. Each text was accompanied along with one of three graphic conditions: a graphic depicting the elements of the standard text, a graphic depicting the elements of the metaphorical text, or no graphic. Results from the present investigation revealed that a metaphorical description can be just as effective for learning as a standard description, but only when the learners’ rationales are examined for the metaphorical perspective of the explanations relative to their standard explanations—and a graphic is present.

The current investigation was designed to examine whether metaphors, when presented as a graphic or as a text, help to increase learners’ understanding of unfamiliar concepts in physics—specifically the functionality of electrical circuits. One-hundred and eighty-eight undergraduate volunteers read one of two texts explaining electrical circuits, in terms standard physics terminology or in terms of a metaphor for electrical circuits. Each text was accompanied along with one of three graphic conditions: a graphic depicting the elements of the standard text, a graphic depicting the elements of the metaphorical text, or no graphic. Results from the present investigation revealed that a metaphorical description can be just as effective for learning as a standard description, but only when the learners’ rationales are examined for the metaphorical perspective of the explanations relative to their standard explanations—and a graphic is present.

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