Analogies in Biology teaching

One of the essential tools in a biology teacher’s tool kit is the analogy. Analogies help students to form their own, personal biological concepts within a more familiar context. Analogies are truly a double-edged sword, (using an analogy to describe the use of analogy.) On one hand they help students to acquire and build their knowledge and understanding but on the other hand they invariably lead to the acquisition of some level of misconception. This negative aspect of analogy is particularly true when working with students just beginning their journeys (another analogy.) Teaching with analogies is a balancing affair. A teacher needs to present the analogy to begin the discussion but also follow up with a discussion of the limits of the analogy.

For a teacher just finding a starting analogy can be a challenge. Here’s two:

Today, I came across a great analogy describing the mechanism of cell receptors and flu viral infection at Effect Measure blog.

Earlier I came across one of the better analogies I’ve seen for describing the developmental toolkit at PZ Meyer’s Pharyngula blog.