Metaphor, simile, analogy, antithesis, hyperbole. Whatever you call them (and they are different), the use of them can improve the effectiveness of your learning designs. They can be used in a range of ways from simply
Metaphors draw parallels between two things (ideas, concepts, processes, systems, content) to further or enable deeper understanding or improve retention and recall. Just as the Eiffel Tower has four legs, you can think of metaphor as having four key pillars …
Pillar 1: Metaphors need to be familiar. They are useful to help anchor new information to familiar contexts, but this only works if participants are familiar with the metaphor. Unfamiliar metaphors only create
Pillar 2: Metaphors can be realistic, or imaginary. Metaphors can be realistic and represent
Pillar 3: Metaphors may be chosen to stimulate emotion. Layering a metaphor over learning content can also be an effective way to stimulate an emotional engagement with new information that helps with long-term memory storage. For example, our Eiffel Tower metaphor is designed to help you remember four foundations of metaphor in learning. We chose the Eiffel Tower because, for most people, this stimulates happy memories and associations, and so, theoretically at least, will help you to remember this article!
Pillar 4: Metaphors should be fresh. Avoid tired, stale metaphors such as a ‘virtual classroom’ or ‘virtual presenters’. If your metaphor idea involves whiteboards, virtual projector screens and apples on the teachers’ desk, it’s time to have a rethink!
How to create metaphors for learning
Staring at a blank page or dry content and coming up with a cracker of a metaphor can be difficult. Here’s a couple of tips to get you started (cracker, explosive, colourful, loud,
You don’t have to be a ‘creative’ to use metaphors. If words aren’t your forte, use a thesaurus to explore other ways that language can be used. If you’re struggling with images, search an image library (or even just a Google image search, although beware of overused concepts) to find ideas and inspiration. Add some extra search terms like ‘mind-map’ or ‘infographic’ or ‘visualisation’ to give focus to your results. (forte, the Italian musical term for strength)
Brainstorm. Find a couple of colleagues and start with your idea or central concept. Give everyone 60 seconds to write down as many ideas as they can, then start talking. Don’t judge (yet), just let things go where they will, that ridiculous idea may be the stepping stone to the idea that you’re looking for. (stepping stone, where one thing follows another)
Metaphors are everywhere – they are woven into our speech, our writing, what we see and experience. And that can be the challenge – to create metaphors that stand out, without dominating or distracting, that enhance understanding of meaning, without obfuscating or confusing, that build and strengthen knowledge, without creating cognitive overload, that
Interested in a deep dive?
- Learn how you can you can tap into metaphors with this article
- Looking to generate ideas? These principles from Jon Maxim will help you get started.
- Looking for an online thesaurus?
- Try this free image library. It’s attribution free and available for commercial use.
What will you do?
Over the next 24 hours, see how many metaphors you can notice in your own and other’s speech.
Get it touch!
Contact us at easyA to explore how our learning solutions design team can work with your organisation: www.easyauthoring.com