Analogies & Narratives

A primary aim of Global ESD is to translate the on-going and increasingly synthesized insights from the human sciences into mid-level language that becomes more immediately meaningful and helpful to teachers and students. In other words, we aim to tranlate science into meaningful narratives, thus cultivating in learners the competency to notice and apply concepts across domains and in novel contexts encountered in the real world. The latter competency is the primary concern of fields studying transfer of learning, analogical reasoning, and intuitive decision making. They highlight the need for continuous engagement and reflection for concepts to become intuitive and readily retrieved in novel contexts (Harrison & Treagust, 2006; Haskell, 2001; Kahneman & Klein, 2009).

One set of tools that educators use to cultivate these transfer skills is the engagement with analogies, metaphors, models and narratives. These are equally important and prevalent in science communication. Important in the engagement with and reflection on analogies is the explicit mapping of similarities and differences between analogous phenomena, particularly in terms of principles, processes and behaviors as opposed to mere surface features (Glynn, 2008; Harrison & Treagust, 2006).

Continuous engagement with analogy mappings across content material helps train students’ understanding of the nature of higher-level principles studied in models and experiments, and the diversity of context-specific instantiations of these principles found in the real world.

Therefore, across content materials of everyday ethology, human science research, NetLogo models and real-world sustainability issues, we develop pedagogical activities that should help students link observed phenomena to generalized principles of human behavioral ecology, such as the interactions between conditions, behaviors, and outcomes (Hayes et al., 2017; Ciarrochi et al., 2016), principles of moral psychology (Haidt, 2007), processes of psychological flexibility (Kashdan, 2010; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 2012), principles of human cooperation (Wilson, Ostrom, & Cox, 2013), and the behavioral dynamics guiding human social interactions (Bowles & Gintis, 2011).

Global ESD Web Analogies Intro


  • Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (2011). A Cooperative Species. Human reciprocity and its evolution. Princeton, New Jersey, USA: Princeton University Press.
  • Ciarrochi, J., Atkins, P. W. B., Hayes, L. L., Sahdra, B. K., & Parker, P. (2016). Contextual positive psychology: Policy recommendations for implementing positive psychology into schools. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(OCT), 1–16.
  • Glynn, S. M. (2008). Making science concepts meaningful to students: Teaching with analogies. In: S. Mikelskis-Seifert, U. Ringelband, & M. Brückmann (Eds.), Four Decades of Research in Science Education: From Curriculum Development to Quality Improvement (pp. 113–125). Münster, Germany: Waxmann.
  • Haidt, J. (2007). The New Synthesis in Moral Psychology. Science, 316(5827), 998–1002.
  • Harrison, A. G. & Treagust, D. F. (2006). Teaching and Learning with Analogies: Friend or foe? In: Aubusson, P. J., Harrison, A. G., & Ritchie, S. M. (eds.). Metaphor and Analogy in Science Education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. p. 11 - 24.
  • Haskell, R. E. (2001). Transfer of Learning. Cognition, Instruction, and Reasoning. Academic Press.
  • Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The Process and Practice of Mindful Change (2nd ed.). New York, NY, USA: The Guilford Press.
  • Hayes, S. C., Sanford, B. T., & Chin, F. T. (2017). Carrying the baton: Evolution science and a contextual behavioral analysis of language and cognition. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 6(3), 314–328.
  • Kahneman, D., & Klein, G. (2009). Conditions for intuitive expertise: a failure to disagree. The American Psychologist, 64(6), 515–526.
  • Kashdan, T. B. (2010). Psychological Flexibility as a Fundamental Aspect of Health. Clin Psychol Rev., 30(7), 865–878.
  • Wilson, D. S., Ostrom, E., & Cox, M. E. (2013). Generalizing the core design principles for the efficacy of groups. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 90, S21–S32.