Although analogies don’t seem to be widely used in sociology teaching – with the exception of the organismic analogy conventionally used to introduce Functionalism and the “Warm Bath” analogy used in relation to Functionalist views on Family Life – I’ve always felt that, used carefully and with suitable warnings not to stretch them too far, they can help students grasp the salient points underlying some complex ideas.

For example, analogies can be used to help students grasp how different perspectives “see society” (“Society is Like” pdf / “Sociological Theory” PowerPoint) as well as gain a greater insight into how concepts like Cultural Capital can be demonstrated.

This third example of Jill Swale’s work in relation to applying critical thinking skills to a-level sociology involves a slight change from the previous examples in that it ranges across the whole course and focuses on the use of analogies in sociology in a way designed to:

  • develop the use of analogies to aid student understanding and application.
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different analogies.

  • The Analogies in Sociology document has full instructions about how to use it in the classroom although, as always, there’s plenty of space left to adapt the exercise to your own particular classroom needs.

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