Teaching through Metaphor

Adult learners process new information by relating it to life experience. The more vivid and multifaceted a new experience is the more likely a learner will become engaged and make connections with previous experience.

This works like surface area or the hooks on a hook and loop fastener. Illustration of surface area

The more connections made to previous experience (even sensory memories) the more likely students will retain and use the information. This is one of the reasons that the technique of chunking works.

Breaking information into manageable chunks gives more opportunity for connections.

Small numbers of discrete information (usually 3-5 points) are more easily processed at a time. I guess you consider it a buffer.

Waffles are all almost all surface area. That is why you can pack them with syrup and butter and berries and … but I digress.


What does this tell us? Teach with waffles. Use metaphors to connect with students accumulated experience. An instructor needs to open up the interior of a subject to students’ inquiry like a waffle iron opens up the interior of the waffle to melted butter and syrup.

If you can find direct application to students personal experience you can help them build connections with the subject. Adult learns bring a broad range of experiences to the classroom. An instructor can ask the students how they could relate the topic to their experience.


2 thoughts on “Teaching through Metaphor

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