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Analogies and examples from student's experiences are frequently cited as important to teaching conceptual material. This study was conducted in order to explore the effectiveness of an analogical teaching technique, which uses a connected sequence of "bridging" analogies, compared with a more standard teaching-by-example technique. The target concept involved the common misconception that static objects are unable to exert forces. Of the 21 high school students with no prior physics instruction who were individually interviewed, 14 initially maintained that a table does not exert a force upward on a book resting on it. The latter were divided into two matched groups. Students in each group were asked to think aloud as they worked through one of the two written explanations. After instruction, the experimental group performed significantly better on target and transfer problems, as well as indicating significantly higher subjective estimates of how "understandable and believable" the explanation was. These findings suggest that: (1) teachers need to be aware that certain examples they themselves find compelling may not be at all illuminating for the student; (2) even when the example is compelling to the student, it may not be seen as analogous to the target problem in the lesson; and (3) teachers need to keep in mind the goal of helping students develop visualizable, qualitative models of physical phenomena.
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