Incorporating Analogical Reasoning into Earth Science: A Content-Agnostic Lesson Plan

Tuesday 1:30pm-2:40pm CC Building Circadian
Share-a-thon Part of Tuesday


Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Eliza Braden, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Valerie L. Shalin, Wright State University-Main Campus
Dena Fender, Richland School District Two
Hengtao Tang, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Nitin Jain, EngageFastLearning Inc
Thilini Wijesiriwardene, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Amit Sheth, University of South Carolina-Columbia


We will share the full, adaptable lesson plan including a PowerPoint, what the student submits (a handout, structured as a Google Form) and Jamboards. Example products from students will be shared.


This 90 minute lesson plan is written to engage students with analogical reasoning that can be used at any point in the curriculum regardless of content. Students are provided with a basic introduction to analogies that includes examples. This learning is contextualized using a candy-based analogy to understand Earth's structure. From there, students are asked to generate a list of both recent Earth science concepts they've covered in class and life experiences they have had (e.g. going to church, making a quilt). Students then work in small groups to develop an analogy explaining an Earth science concept (target domain) using their chosen life experience (source domain). In this way, students are able to better connect content to what is meaningful and interesting to them from their lived experiences. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to create an analogy demonstrating the relationship between two or more ideas recently discussed in class, explain this analogy to one or more classmates, and provide feedback to others on their analogy and/or reasoning.


We believe this lesson could be used at the middle school level or above. However, we have pilot tested it with 9th grade Earth Science students. High school teachers at two local schools have incorporated it into their Earth science courses wherever they see an opportunity to do so. Students at these schools are very diverse and have a high Pupil in Poverty (PIP) status. The PIP represents the proportion of students living in poverty. Students at school 1 are 64% African American, 20% Hispanic, 10% White, 4% Mixed, and 2% Asian. School 1 has a 72% PIP status. Students at school 2 are 76% African American, 10% White, 8% Hispanic, 5% Mixed, and 1% Asian. School 2 has a 61% PIP status.

Why It Works

Using analogical reasoning, students can draw inferences from a familiar phenomenon or knowledge (e.g., source analog) to understand a novel situation or difficult concept (e.g., target analog). Analogy concerning process, or sequential change over time, is particularly compatible with narrative forms of expression central to African American and Latinx culture. However, the success of analogy-based pedagogy may depend on the familiarity of the source, potentially compromised and culturally biased in curated textbook analogies. Moreover, analogy exercises are time-consuming to construct and grade, prohibiting curriculum integration no matter how successful analogy-based pedagogy might be. With this lesson, we hope to provide teachers with an easy-to-use, content-agnostic lesson plan in which students develop analogies based on their identities and lived experiences or funds of knowledge. Grading is done holistically based on an 'exit ticket' in which students share and explain their analogies for a recent science concept.

In the future, an AI tool in development that enhances ChatGPT with knowledge graphs (representing source and target domains) will be used for scalably creating analogies that can be curated by teachers and provided to the students for in-class or out of class learning. The tool will also support personalized measurement/evaluation and grading support to significantly reduce teacher burden.