Adult Students Demonstrate Learning by Creating Metaphors


You can ask adult learners to create a metaphor to demonstrate their understanding of the material you've taught and as a take-away that they can use in their work or life.

In a previous post I shared how I use metaphors in designing and teaching curriculum. In this post I'll share how I have used metaphors as demonstration-of-learning tasks, a final performance task for trainees to demonstrate that they understand and can apply what they've learned in training. In this example you will see that they can actually use what they create in their own work.

One metaphor is used as a starting place for understanding program elements.

Several years ago I created a sailing metaphor to represent all the components of a national children’s mentoring program and how those elements worked together within the program and the larger community. I created this metaphor to help me understand the program components and to create a logical flow to a new mentor training I had been hired to create for the program. When we rolled the training out, I trained all the program directors from several chapters across the US. I used the metaphor to introduce the program to the directors, modeling how they would do the same in their chapter for all new mentor hires. Here is the sailing metaphor.


While the sailing metaphor worked for the broadly educated and traveled program directors, it wasn't a good cultural fit for all geographical areas and program sites. Because of this, I decided to ask the program directors to use the key program elements to create a metaphor relevant to their individual geographic areas. These demonstration-of-learning creations served two purposes. The first was that they made a great check for understanding that the directors were using a shared understanding of how all the program elements functioned together in the work of the mentors they needed to hire and train. The second was that the program directors needed to create a geographically relevant metaphor they could use to train new mentors at their own sites. 

Contextualized metaphors meet the needs of different audiences.

All of the created metaphors contained the key elements of their national program model along with how those elements worked together, but each one was contextualized to their geographic region for cultural relevance. 

A mountain climbing metaphor

The Seattle, Portland and Klamath Falls chapters used their key program elements to create a mentoring metaphor that compared their program to mountain climbing. As the Pacific Northwest has several mountains and backpacking is a popular pastime, this was an excellent and culturally relevant metaphor for these chapters. 


A public transportation metaphor 

The New York City and San Francisco chapters used the key elements of the mentoring program to create a metaphor comparing the program to riding public transportation in a big city.


A football metaphor 

The Cincinnati chapter created their mentoring metaphor around a football field and football game, which made sense as they'd had a winning team that year and the city remained a buzz with that excitement. 


Share your good ideas.

In what types of demonstration-of-learning tasks could you ask learners to create a metaphor as a check for understanding? Please share your good ideas in the comment section below.