On Metaphors

I was rereading Anna Sfard’s article “On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One.”  I first read this piece last summer, as part of Dr. Yanchar’s Learning Theory course.  This time, I did not spend a lot of time reviewing her discussion of acquisition vs. participation metaphors (though that was very interesting and led to great discussions).  This time I was interested in what she had to say about the power of metaphors.  She drew especially on articles from A. Ortony’s Metaphor and Thought (which I’m now going to get from the library).

Just a few lines about the power of metaphors.  (Perhaps I needed to quote this stuff when I was teaching high school English! 😉

Because metaphors bring with them certain well-defined expectations as to the possible features of target concepts, the choice of a metaphor is a highly consequential decision. Different metaphors may lead to different ways of thinking and to different activities. (p. 5)

So as I draw on Gibbons’ metaphor of instruction as conversation, what are the “well-defined expectations” about the “target concepts” of conversation? The three core elements I’m working with now (agency, purposefulness, and shared energy) are definitely things I consider “target concepts” of conversation. But am I missing anything essential?


Sfard, Anna. (1998). On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher 27, no. 2 (March): 4-13. doi:10.3102/0013189X027002004. http://edr.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.3102/0013189X027002004.

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