Making Sense of Teaching through Metaphors: A Review across Three Studies

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 16, No. 1, (February 2010), 49–71.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to synthesize findings from three studies that have addressed the conceptualization and application of the metaphor construct to the study of teachers and teaching.

The particular interest of the authors has been to identify the dominant metaphorical views of preservice teachers, to understand how these images are reflected in their respective views of schooling, life, childhood and teaching and how these images come to influence their work in the classroom.
The authors frame the discussion in light of the larger literature on the relationship of teachers’ beliefs and practices as it relates to learning to teach and teacher education.


This research, in relation to prior research, presents several important concepts for teacher educators.
First, the combination of personal experience, prior schooling, and student teaching are more influential in building conceptions of teaching than the teacher education programs (Richardson, 1996).

Second, teacher education programs, with the exception of student teaching, have minimal effects on teachers’ beliefs and practices. Prior life experiences and actual teaching experiences are the two most potent influences on beliefs about teaching, children, and schooling.

Third, it appears that change in metaphors and beliefs is easier to achieve at the inservice level than at the preservice level (Richardson, 1996).
In fact, the use of metaphor may be an ideal starting point from which inservice teachers can take stock of their professional selves. The current climate of reform may actually force such reflections. In this way changes made can be harmonious with one’s own goals and philosophies.

Richardson, V. (1996). The role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach. In J. Sikula (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (pp. 102–119). New York: Macmillan.

Updated: Sep. 07, 2010