Students' Understanding of Analogy after a CORE (Chemical Observations, Representations, Experimentation) Learning Cycle, General Chemistry Experiment

Shirly Avargil, Mitchell R.M. Bruce, François G. Amar, Alice E. Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Students' understanding about analogy was investigated after a CORE learning cycle general chemistry experiment. CORE (Chemical Observations, Representations, Experimentation) is a new three-phase learning cycle that involves (phase 1) guiding students through chemical observations while they consider a series of open-ended questions, (phase 2) developing representations using analogical thinking, and (phase 3) designing and conducting experiments in response to a scientific question. In the CORE experiment used in this study, Polymers and Cross Linking, an analogy was employed in phase 2 when students reflected on the similarities and limitations between objects used in the analogy (the analog) and the chemistry under observation (the target). Owing to the reliance on analogical reasoning in the CORE approach, we conducted a study at a single point in time at the very beginning of a lab course to investigate students' understanding about analogy, the importance of considering the limitations of an analogy, and perceived benefits. Four online questions were asked approximately one week after lab work. Student responses (n = 501) across the four questions provided a rich data set of over 60 000 words (averaging >120 words/student). Results indicate that 75% of students have a basic or better understanding of the analogy, 61% of students connected the analogy with either chemical observations from lab and/or submicroscopic thinking, while 8% connected the analogy to both. A majority of students (57%) described the importance of appreciating the limitations of an analogical model and numerous students offered details about how analogy influenced their conceptual understanding. The data provide insight into student understanding about analogy and the degree to which students recognize the limitations of an analogy, as well as student perceptions of the benefits of the approach. This study informs those interested in developing curricula around the CORE approach and suggests design criteria for investigating student learning when analogies are used as part of lab work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1626-1638
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number10
StatePublished - 13 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Analogies/Transfer
  • Chemical Education Research
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Inquiry-Based/Discovery Learning
  • Laboratory Instruction

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Education


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