Seminal book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (cognitive linguists) released in 1980 which has influenced educational metaphor research.
Book’s main premise. Metaphors are not just mere literary devices or short cuts – figures of speech to spice up conversations but conceptual or cognitive tools/instruments used by people to understand and comprehend their social and inner realities – their world. * Most studies in the area of educational metaphors have focused on teacher education rather than higher education – on teacher educators and teacher trainees not academic lecturers.
A fish has no conception of water until it is out of it – metaphors are so subtle and below awareness* The fact that metaphors are part and parcel of daily conversations and interactions makes them invisible so that unless you look out for them, you rarely notice them.
Most of the studies have focused on teacher educators and student teachers but there is a limited study on HE lecturers. I needed a small population sample of lecturers and National Teaching Fellows fitted this bill. These were academics regarded as excellent teachers by the HEA. It was interesting to find out what their teaching methods would be.
“My teaching style is like a ‘tourguide’, signposting the interestinglandmarks and providing somecontext in a way that encouragesothers to explore the landscape forthemselves in a way that is of mostuse to them…….”Fellow B
"Teaching is like feeding studentswith pre-digested concepts in ananimated and enthusiastic manner -the students should always feel theyhave left a teaching event havinglearnt something new." Fellow I
“…..It is a bit like being a goodparent, you know when you havebeen successful, they can fly awayon their own.” Fellow J
“My teaching is like fair-isleknitting. I am the needles gentlyteasing the strands of wool togetherand creating the structure and theframework, yet it is the wool (orlearners) who provide the colourand substance of the finalresult……” Fellow P
“The teacher is a scaffold thatgradually removes itself to the pointof not being needed. With thescaffold the building (student) cango much higher than it could havedone without this support at theearly stages.” Fellow R
“Teaching is like learning to fish. Youhave to spend time watching the waterbefore you gradually become aware ofall the activity beneath the surface.Then you have to recognise how thefish (learners) are swimming, so youcan align yourself with their direction &then lead them where you want themto go.” Fellow S
Non-metaphorical responses• “Teaching is enabling learners to hold onto what would otherwise be difficult tograsp. It turns abstractions into tangiblethings.”• “Teaching is remembering that you arealways a student of the discipline and astudent of the best of way deliveringit….”
Metaphors are reframing or heuristic tools that can be employed by teachers to reflect upon and improve their practice (Munby & Russell, 1990).“Metaphors are reframingor heuristic tools that can beemployed by teachers toreflect upon and improvetheir practice.”(Munby & Russell, 1990)).
“I love metaphors as they are reallypowerful ways to convey ideas andthis exercise certainly made methink about my approach and whatI am trying to do in my teaching sothanks very much. Thank you formaking me think this evening.”Fellow P
“I dont normally use metaphors butyour question made me think more”Fellow J
Travelling metaphorTeacher as travel or tour guide,ship captain, lighthouse keeperand students as travellersParenting metaphor Teacher as ‘good’ parent andstudents as children.Performance metaphor Teacher as actor, tightrope walker,cheeky clown and students asaudienceCoaching metaphor Teacher as coach and students asmental athletesKnitting metaphor Teacher as needle and students aswoolGardening metaphor Teacher as gardener and studentsas plantsConstruction metaphor Teacher as scaffold and studentsas buildings