A Rose By Any Other Name

Uncovering metaphor in Earth Science textbooks

Researchers are considering the role of conceptual metaphor use in science teaching and learning.

Conceptual metaphor is giving meaning to an abstract concept (target) in terms of a more concrete concept (source), one developed from embodied experiences. Characteristic of metaphors is that they highlight aspects of reality while hiding others. Experts are aware of what is highlighted and hidden taking it for granted when teaching or writing textbooks. Novices, who do not know which aspects they are supposed to consider or ignore, can interpret the metaphor in unintended ways, impeding learning. Metaphors can also be linked to references more familiar to students from a particular cultural or ethnic background, creating a bias in the learning experience that limits contributions from diverse learners.

This project analyzes multiple introductory geoscience textbooks for their use of metaphor. We aim to identify the more common metaphors used from book to book and determine if they relate to common misconceptions that students have in geoscience and/or may limit the learning experience from a diversity perspective. If there are problematic metaphors, we will analyze them for their limitations and develop strategies to mitigate the difficulties. These strategies could range from instruction on the limitations of the metaphor to developing new metaphors. We would then try to measure effectiveness of the strategies for student learning.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

William Shakespeare

The Problem

Linguistic metaphors may influence educational outcomes.

But just what metaphors are commonly used in geoscience education and with what educational outcomes are unknown.

The Approach

The Team


Dr. Glenn Dolphin

Glenn Dolphin is the Tamaratt Teaching Professor in Geoscience. His research focuses on how students learn in geology and he is especially interested in how the use of history and the use of metaphor influences student learning.


Dr. Brandon Karchewski


Cristina Moldoveanu Constantinescu


Jason Curtis Droboth

MSc Geoscience Student

Jason Curtis Droboth is a graduate student studying science communication. His research examines how major Earth and Space Science organizations like NASA and the AGU use their social media accounts to represent the Earth to the public. He uses Social Semiotics and Multimodal Discourse Analysis to make sense of how complex multimodal texts, like social media posts, leverage and combine semiotic resources to create representations of the Earth.

Past Presentations