Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James H. Wandersee


This research explored development of analogical thought through high school biology students' participation in a year-long sequence of analogical activities. Analogizing involves: selecting a familiar analog; mapping similarities and differences between the analog and less familiar target; making inferences from the analogy; evaluating validity of the inferences; and ultimately, understanding the biological target (Holyoak & Thagard, 1995). This investigation considered: student development of independence in learning through analogical thought, student learning of biology, the relationship between development of students' analogical thinking and students' learning of biology, and the quality of student interactions in the classroom. This researcher, as teacher participant, used three approaches for teaching by analogy: traditional didactic, teacher-guided, and analogy-generated-by-the-student (Zeitoun, 1983). Within cooperative groups, students in one honors biology class actively engaged in research-based analogical activities that targeted specific biological topics. Two honors biology classes participated in similar, but nonanalogical activities that targeted the same biological topics. This two-class comparison group permitted analytical separation of effects of the analogical emphasis from the effects of biology content and activity-based learning. Data collected included: fieldnotes of researcher observations, student responses to guidesheets, tapes of group interactions, student products, student perceptions survey evaluations, ratings of students' expressed analogical development, pre- and posttest scores on a biology achievement test, essay responses, and selected student interviews. These data formed the basis for researcher qualitative analysis, augmented by quantitative techniques. Through participation in the sequence of analogical activities, students developed their abilities to engage in the processes of analogical thinking, but attained different levels of independence. Students expressed ownership of the biological knowledge they constructed through higher level analogical thought. Their biological learning showed integration of knowledge that was broader and deeper than the comparison group. Their learning of biology content on the knowledge level was as good as that of students who engaged in traditional nonanalogical learning activities when probed with conventional assessments. In addition, students gained a metacognitive tool that taps into imagination. Biology classroom interactions were enriched in respect to student motivation, enjoyment, group dynamics, and meaning making.