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#1 JohnDClare

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 03:42 PM

A while ago I was listening to some programme on radio 4 that was nothing to with History or education, and the speaker was talking about analogy. At one point, he said that you had not learned anything unless you could express it in the form of an analogy.
That thought really fascinated me.

I used it with pupils who were having trouble getting their heads around the Cold War (you can see a developed version at http://www.johndclar...ar1_analogy.htm if you are interested). In fact I find I automatically use analogy a lot while teaching - particularly when explaining causation and motivation.

I also worked quite hard for a time trying to use it as a plenary exercise with some of my brighter classes. In this, I failed miserably - either I had utterly failed to teach them properly, or the skill was too 'old' for them, or those topics just didn't lend themselves easily to forming an analogy.

Beyond that, I haven't taken it any further.
Have any forum members gone any further with this?

Do teacher-expounded analogies help the pupils, or do they just further confuse, do you think?
And as for the pupils making up their own analogies, is it just too sophisticated a skill for them?
And can you think of any topics where it might be particularly easy to ask them to do this (I tried a number with HVIII and his wives, dissolution of the monasteries etc., which I thought would be easy, but apparently they weren't)?
And is there any way I could give them clues without giving away the whole game?

#2 catherine6474

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 04:42 PM

I tend to use analogy without realising it with lower ability classes especially, eg when refering to wars. I find it helps with understanding WW1 if you explain all the alliances joining in after Franz Ferdinand's death as a fight between two young children who can't cope on their own so get their big brothers to join in. I suppose its close to empathy - trying to get an understanding through using current situations. Never thought of getting them to do their own though.

Edited by catherine6474, 27 July 2003 - 04:44 PM.


#3 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 05:54 PM

I use(d) analogy all the time - but usually as an 'off the cuff' thing when it was clear that something hadn't been understood. I've never done anything in the sort of sustained way that JohnD's example does though. I think that's really good. You clearly need to have a very good knowledge and understanding of the Cold War to complete the exercise and as such it makes an excellent revision exercise.

If analogies are going to work well then it's very obvious that they must be within the experience of the children so the ones I have tended to use have often referred to bullying or to the way authoritarian figures (eg Heads, HofY) use their power, or to peer group pressure. With older pupils it's possible to use their knowledge of current political situations too, so in teaching Elizabeth I I often made reference to current media spin.

I've never actually asked a class to come up with their own analogies as a plenary session, but have found that pupils will do so of their accord to help out a struggling classmate. "Look. It's like when Mr X punished Boy Y because he ....." - that type of thing.

Using analogies is just one of the strategies any teacher has up their sleeve, I think. I'm not sure that I'd want to use it too often, nor indeed to do a sustained analogy for its own sake, but it does work very well (as JohnD has shown) for the Cold War.

#4 John Simkin

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 06:36 AM

A while ago I was listening to some programme on radio 4 that was nothing to with History or education, and the speaker was talking about analogy. At one point, he said that you had not learned anything unless you could express it in the form of an analogy. That thought really fascinated me.

Although I have never thought about it in this way, I think the speaker was right. I also made good use of analogies in the classroom. There is a theory that all new knowledge has to be integrated into old knowledge. Using analogies is a good way of doing this. However, you have to be very careful that the two situations are very similar. For example, I do not think that John’s analogy is a fair representation of the Cold War. I think it was more like an analogy that Sam’s mother would have come up with. As the PRO excellent website points out, the Cold War began in 1917 and not 1945. To understand Boris we need to understand what happened before he was old enough to go to school.

I think to use analogies successfully you must limit them to one fairly small incident. Once you stretch them to cover a long period of time they are bound to collapse.

I have occasionally asked students to produce analogies. I remember one lesson on the development of the class system during the industrial revolution. I did it by drawing a layered pyramid. I then ask the Y9 class to draw a pyramid to represent the power system in the school. One boy in the class put the caretaker at the top. At first it seemed he was having a joke at my expense. However, on talking to him it all became clear. Over the previous few weeks he had been involved with a drama group and during the recent school production the caretaker had made life very difficult for them to rehearse in the school.

What is interesting is that I taught the boy history for the next five years and he constantly used analogies when discussing the subject. Normally, only the brightest students did this. Although he was a very perceptive student he was not very good on paper and dropped out before taking his ‘A’ level exams. But I often wondered how much the discussion we had on the the power structure of the school played a role in this use of analogies.

#5 Stephen Drew

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 08:29 AM

Your analogy story is brilliant John (D Clare) - too many Johns around here.

Perhaps one of you could change your name to Sam and one of you could become Boris? :idea:

Seriously though I think John (Simkin) is on the right lines when he says that the Cold War started in 1917, but I also think that for the average Year 10 or 11 the story is spot on and covers all they need to know. I think to extend it would reduce its effectiveness.

In fact this story has filled my head with buzzing thoughts about how to rework my short Cold War unit at the end of Year 9. A bit of tinkering with the lesson and this could be fantastic.

I am also thinking of how it could be used elsewhere.

Thank you for this excellent idea JDC. :u star:
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#6 John Simkin

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 09:46 AM

Your analogy story is brilliant John (D Clare) - too many Johns around here.

Perhaps one of you could change your name to Sam and one of you could become Boris?  :idea:

Seriously though I think John (Simkin) is on the right lines when he says that the Cold War started in 1917, but I also think that for the average Year 10 or 11 the story is spot on and covers all they need to know. I think to extend it would reduce its effectiveness.

In fact this story has filled my head with buzzing thoughts about how to rework my short Cold War unit at the end of Year 9. A bit of tinkering with the lesson and this could be fantastic.

I am also thinking of how it could be used elsewhere.

Thank you for this excellent idea JDC.

This analogy is deeply flawed and should not be used in a classroom with any age group. Students would become more confused than enlightened by the suggestion that Boris and Sam are playing roles similar to the Soviet Union/ Nikita Khrushchev and the USA/Jennedy during the Cold War. There are many flaws but I would just highlight one. John’s analogy includes the passage that “Boris was bringing a knife for his psycho friend Fidel to attack Sam with.” This I assume refers to the Soviet Union placing nuclear missiles on Cuba. To describe Cuba or Fidel Castro as being a “psycho” will obviously provide an unappealing picture in the minds of the students. It is also a complete distortion of what happened. The missiles were never under the control of Cuba/Fidel. The knife was still being held by Boris. The anthology leaves important aspects of the crisis. What about the weapons placed on Turkey and Italy before they were placed in Cuba. What about Guantanamo Bay? Sam had already placed weapons with Fidel (but of course not under his control). I think the students would get a much clearer understanding of the crisis by sticking to the facts of the story. Otherwise you could be accused of providing a very subjective (political) interpretation of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

#7 Stephen Drew

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 10:04 AM

Most perceptively argued John Simkin. You make a strong and persuasive case against the use of the analogy created by John D Clare.

However you have not in any way caused me to change me perception of the analogy that JDC has created, or indeed caused me to question the fact that I will be making use of this analogy in my classroom next year with my Year 9s.

I shall explain why.

The analogy created by John D Clare does indeed use the word "psycho" in a very definite and provocative style. It is of course correct to point out that this is a judgement on Castro that could lead students to create an unbalanced view of the man in their minds. However I would argue that if I was to use this analogy with my students (as I am sure others will agree - or maybe not!) they would pick up on the use of the word "psycho" as being somewhat extreme for use in an historical text. I personally believe that John D Clare chose this word for its shock value, bearing in mind the audience it is aimed at.

Once they had picked up on this word and perhaps questioned other parts of the analogy I would expect to teach the topic, covering each of the events referred to in the analogy and then to dissect the analogy at the end of the unit to see how fair, balanced and accurate the analogy was. This I believe would truly engage and extend the thinking of my students.

I do not believe that anyone thinks that any analogy can be perfect, or that it should be treated any differently to any other source. We do not accept the word of anyone in history at face value, just as we do not accept the word of modern institutions as without bias.

But as a starting point to lead into a series of lessons on the topic, and then an end point for discussion of interpretation, I see John D Clare's analogy as excellent and I will be using it in the future.

So of course this is another example where there is actually more agreement than seems to be the case at first viewing between the contributors to the thread. Indeed I fully take on board the views expressed by John Simkin and recognise the validity of the posting. However I will use the analogy for precisely the reasons that John Simkin raises as objections to it.

(Note to self: you are on holiday Stephen, you can at least try not to be such a teacher all the time! :unsure: )
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#8 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 11:08 AM

I like the idea of analogies, and often find myself having to use a variety of examples to explain different events /concepts to my students (I have a tendency to use films more often and have had students ask me if I do anything other than watch videos). However, I find myself agreeing with John S that we run a strong risk of slanting our analogies to fit with our own political / personal ideas. The author has to be very clear about what message they are trying to convey (the 'psycho' tag certainly jumped out at me) and the language that is being used. Now if you accept that there is no such thing as objectivity / apolitical teaching then that is fine. If however you take issue with this stance ....

nb - note to self - don't allow yourself to be distracted, you have schemes of work to rewrite!
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
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#9 JohnDClare

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 11:40 AM

I am particularly interested that the analogy has - among adults, I have to admit - stimulated a discussion about the correctness of the analogy.

Are we beginning to move towards a taxonomy here?
eg
Level 1 - able to explain the parallels in someone else's analogy
Level 2 - able to develop simple parallels by self
Level 3 - able to develop a sustained analogy, taking into account a number of relevant factors
Level 4 - able to see that the analogy is, itself, an interpretation and thus able to challenge someone else's analogy
Level 5 - able to offer revisions/alternatives to re-define the analogy to suit a different interpretation

And if this is the case, where might we expect bright KS4 pupils to realistically reach?

I can't pretend to have even begun to explore this in the classroom, but I agree with Stephen that I am quite excited by the TL implications and possibilities.

(I have, however, taken John Simkin's comments very seriously and introduced a caveat into the online Cold War exercise. Thank you for your constructive criticism, John)

Edited by JohnDClare, 28 July 2003 - 11:41 AM.


#10 John Simkin

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 06:06 AM

The analogy created by John D Clare does indeed use the word "psycho" in a very definite and provocative style. It is of course correct to point out that this is a judgement on Castro that could lead students to create an unbalanced view of the man in their minds. However I would argue that if I was to use this analogy with my students (as I am sure others will agree - or maybe not!) they would pick up on the use of the word "psycho" as being somewhat extreme for use in an historical text. I personally believe that John D Clare chose this word for its shock value, bearing in mind the audience it is aimed at.

Once they had picked up on this word and perhaps questioned other parts of the analogy I would expect to teach the topic, covering each of the events referred to in the analogy and then to dissect the analogy at the end of the unit to see how fair, balanced and accurate the analogy was. This I believe would truly engage and extend the thinking of my students.

To used a flawed analogy on purpose in your teaching is an interesting idea. I would have two major concerns about this. The first issue concerns how the analogy is presented. Would the teacher claim it as their analogy? If so, would the students be influenced by the idea that it is coming from their teacher. It is a bit like (another analogy) the arguments used against computer simulations. That there is a danger that the students believe what happens in the simulation rather than what actually happened in history.

The second issue concerns the ability of the student to criticize the original analogy. You need a detailed understanding of the subject to be able to do that and again I fear that the original analogy would retain too much of its influence.

If teachers are to use analogies then I think they have a duty to try and get it as accurate as possible. There is of course nothing wrong in still getting the student to question the validity of the analogy at the end of the topic.

The creation of analogies is a highly political act. This could be seen during the recent war with Iraq. Several leading supporters of the war, including Bush and Blair, attempted to use the analogy of Hitler in the 1930s. Opponents tended to think it was more like Eden in 1956 (Eden of course believed Nasser was like Hitler in the 1930s). Whereas others even went as far as suggesting that Bush was acting like Hitler. However, it was clear from any detailed investigation that all these analogies were deeply flawed. Political events are far too complicated to sustain an analogy for any length of time. At best, they only help is understand very brief periods of time.

I therefore would argue that teachers should be very careful about using analogies in their teaching. However, I still think that John D. Clare’s original point is a good one: “that you had not learned anything unless you could express it in the form of an analogy.” If I understand it correctly, this is an argument for the student and not the teacher to produce the analogy. That seems to be a very good idea.

Edited by John Simkin, 29 July 2003 - 06:11 AM.


#11 JohnDClare

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 08:15 AM

John Simkin is absolutely spot on on this one, and I would further argue that all analogies are necessarily flawed, because they are not the actual story.

Analogies are useful because they illustrate a specific point(s) in order to foster understanding of a principle. They do come naturally to most teachers -Jesus taught in parables - and to some pupils.
Howeve, they are therefore by nature manipulative.
Where analogies go wrong is when you begin to 'stray off the beaten track' and start trying to use the analogy to investigate issues it was never intended to illustrate.

I can't say I have even begun to explore these ideas in the classroom but, like Stephen, I intend to try out some ideas when term starts.

#12 John Simkin

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 09:16 AM

The use of analogy is raised in an excellent article in today’s Guardian by the historian Linda Colley (The Past is a Foreign Country).

http://www.guardian....1007713,00.html

She points out that in his Washington speech “Blair joked that at least he wasn't like Lord North, the prime minister who lost the American colonies. But one of the main reasons for this historical defeat was that North's fellow Britons were split over the merits of the war. And North not only lost the colonies; he lost his job.”

In other words, Blair was very much like Lord North.

#13 JohnDClare

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Posted 29 July 2003 - 10:59 AM

John Simkin

http://www.guardian....1007713,00.html

This is, absolutely, a brilliant article, with some very thought-provoking comments beyond the immediate will-we-get-rid-of-Blair question.

Edited by JohnDClare, 29 July 2003 - 11:00 AM.


#14 Stephen Drew

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Posted 30 July 2003 - 09:48 AM

I thought about this in more detail relevant to my own teaching practice last night, and reflected that most of my analogies tend to be short one liners or quick examples.

I used to use masses when I taught A-Level at my previous school - including one completely off the wall example about the Terror in the French Revolution being like a giant magnet hovering over a pile of wood shavings in which some metal woodlice were crawling around. Needless to say my Lower Sixth fixed me with the confused stare that meant I had indeed lost the plot for the tenth time that day. However it obviously made an impression as it appeared in their end of Sixth Form Year Book in two separate entries. :baaa:

I think we all must do this but John D Clare's ideas do take it on to another level from what I have done previously.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#15 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 30 July 2003 - 12:28 PM

I wrote about an extended analogy on another thread last night and then realised it would be more appropriate here. Excuse me while I quote myself...

I find a timeline of cause and consequence on the board, with an imaginary event in the life of a lucky pupil 'volunteer' works a treat from Y7 to Y13.

------------Cause---------------------------------------------Consequence----------------
Long term--------Short term--------Event---------Short term--------Long term--------

'What is your dream ambition?'
'To play for Swansea City sir'
'Imagine that one day you get the call-up [teacher starts filling in timeline with 'Dai places for Swansea City' under 'Event'], why might this have happened?'
'Because I had a trial' [teacher continues to fill in timeline]
'Good. And why might you have had a trial.... etc.

Then later on teacher starts to add other causes:

'Imagine next week you decide to give up eating cheese-on-chips for lunch every day, where might this fit into the timeline?
'Ummm' [pupil writes on board]
'Why is this a long term cause?' [PSE opportunity!]
'Because it happened a longtime before the event sir'
'Excellent, but also it wasn't obviously connected to the event was it? [Opportunity for A Level logic]
Eh?
'Well when you had the trial, the result of your success was obvious, but when you stopped eating cheese on chips, did this make it likely that you would one day play for Swansea city?'
'No sir'
'Good but why not?' [etc.]

Then sometime later...

'Was the assassination of the Archduke like your trial for Swansea City or your decision to stop eating cheese-on-chips?' What about Lenin's theory of imperialism? Cheese or Trial?

And so on.

What I would do next is get pupils to write their own longterm/shorterm timelines. I tend to give merits for the most tangential long term causes that make me laugh.

When writing last night I then realised this fitted beautifully into JohnDClare's Levels of Attainment for historical analogy.

Level Six: Make your history teacher laugh.
All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
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