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Adult Learner > Strategies > Metaphors & Analogies

Metaphors & Analogies


Metaphors and analogies can support learners by helping to form connections and to notice patterns and similarities that promote learning, self-concept, and higher order thinking. By organizing information and drawing comparisons to more familiar domains, metaphors and analogies provide a framework for thinking about disciplinary information, more complex concepts such as health and social issues, as well as abstract concepts such as intelligence. Metaphors can transform the usual way of thinking or seeing things thereby supporting Cognitive Flexibility.

Use It In Your Learning Environment

Analogies support Numeracy by conveying math concepts in a form that learners can relate to, supporting their understanding and self-efficacy. Analogy instruction also promotes Foundational Reading Skills, supporting decoding of unfamiliar words by highlighting orthographic patterns, and supporting text comprehension through accommodating new information during reading.

Metaphors can be created with words or visuals which can be incorporated into product design. Because metaphors and analogies are often based on comparison to a familiar concept, it is essential to have a good understanding of the learner's Background Knowledge when using metaphors and analogies to teach new concepts, and fundamental to culturally responsive practices. In addition, English language learners and learners from other cultures may not be familiar with the common metaphors used in English so it is important to ensure an understanding before applying them in a learning context.

Success in using analogies and metaphors in the learning environment involves supporting learners to feel empowered to engage in the higher order thinking they need to draw these similarities, promoting Reasoning and Metacognition. As adult learners have unique stories, identities, cultural backgrounds, and personalities that should be valued in learning environments, it is supportive to give them space to share these aspects of their lives through metaphor creation.