Malmö University Publications
Change search
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf
Rendering of Words: Students´ Meaning making
Malmö University, Faculty of Education and Society (LS), Department of Natural Science, Mathematics and Society (NMS). Malmö University, Disciplinary literacy and inclusive teaching.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4463-2707
Gothenburg University, Sweden.
2023 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Several scholars (e.g., Martin & Veel, 1998; Seah et al., 2014) have emphasized that language usage in school science contexts may be characterized by high lexical density, abstraction, and technicality. In addition, the language in science classrooms has, according to Lemke (1990) specific characteristics related to the use of words, grammar, and semantic patterns that may be a particularly challenging issue. At the word-level, following Nation (2013) language use in science can be grouped into three categories: (a) science-exclusive words; concepts (e.g. allopatric, exothermic reaction, and force, (b) words found both in science and elsewhere, but with different meanings; homonyms (e.g. adapt, cycle, and energy), and (c) general academic words (e.g. converted, proceeds, and originates). All types of words are important in meaning making of science in order to appropriate the semantic pattern of how science is communicated in classrooms. In other words, teachers must understand how language influences learning and develop strategies to enhance students’ successful appropriation of scientific language in the continuum between daily and scientific registers and increase the students’ discursive awareness and mobility in relation to content and language (Authors, 2019; Schleppegrell, 2016).

Starting with the triadic idea from, among others, Nation (2013) have Authors (2019) developed a more fine-grained categorization with two main parts with three subcategories each. These are a) content neutral words divided in 1) common words (e.g. talk); 2) unusual words (e.g. disappointment) and 3) general academic words (e.g. consider) and b) content related words divided in 4) homonyms (e.g. pressure); 5) content-typical words (e.g. pollution) and 6) content-specific words (e.g. photosynthesis).

Aim and question

The aim of this project is to investigate language related issues in relation to meaning making of school science in multilanguage settings. This is done through a multidisciplinary and quantitative approach in Swedish secondary schools.

The specific research question focused is: what kind of words are challenging for students with Swedish language background and students with other language backgrounds.

Method

Methodology Meaning making of words was estimated through four different web-based vocabulary tests given to 232 students grade 7-9. Each test had 15 words selected from the textbook that the actual class would study two weeks later. One sentence was chosen, in which one word was made bold and the students were given four alternative suggestions as synonyms. The words belonged to five of the six categories mentioned above (common words was excluded) and academic/official dictionaries was used to categorize the words. Example of words in the textbooks that we chose were: 2) unusual words (e.g. contemplate); 3) general academic words (e.g. process); 4) homonyms (e.g. solution); 5) content-typical words (e.g. indicator) and 6) content-specific words (e.g. symbiosis). In addition, the students were asked about their first language and how long time they studied in Swedish school. This data made it possible to calculate potential significant differences between groups and categories of words.

Expected Outcomes

Findings On a general level, significant differences were found between the performance of students with Swedish as mother tongue and those with other mother tongues and within the group that arrived in Sweden later than school start. When focusing types of words, we first found a need to differentiate our previous model for interpretation of homonyms (group 4) into to two subcategories: 4a) colloquial but content related words and 4b) academic and content specific words. We found significant differences between Swedish as mother tongue and not were seen towards two categories: 3) general academic words (e.g. cause and consist of) and 4a) colloquial but content related words (e.g. pass and branch). Difficult word categories for all students were: academic and content-related words (e.g. trait and process) and academic and content-typical words (e.g. occur and indicator). It is not surprising that students with another mother tongue that Swedish score less on a general vocabulary test. It has been shown before but it indicates that the test is reliable.

Conclusion/discussion

The main contribution of this study is that it points towards types of words that are extra hard for the students to make meaning of. We argue that with respect to students with another mother tongue than the language of instruction it is especially important to give attention to the words that belong to the category general academic words. These general academic words are important in the science classroom since they are the “glue”, or connectors (Gibbons, 2003), between the concepts, and a scientific explanation is incomprehensible without the connectors that bind concepts (Silseth, 2018). It is hard to make sense of the important concepts without words like consist of or because. Therefore, science teaching should emphasize these words along with the concepts.

References 

Gibbons, P. (2003). Mediating language learning: Teacher interactions with ESL students in a content-based classroom. Tesol Quarterly, 37, 247–273.

Lemke, J. L. (1990). Talking Science: Language, Learning, and Values. Norwood, NJ: Ablex London: Routledge.

Martin, J. R., & Veel, R. (1998). Reading science: Critical and functional perspectives on discourses of science. London: Routledge.

Nation, I. S. (2013). Learning vocabulary in another language Google eBook. Cambridge University Press.

Seah, L. H., Clarke, D. J., & Hart, C. E. (2014). Understanding the language demands on science students from an integrated science and language perspective. International Journal of Science Education, 36(6), 952–973.

Silseth, K. (2018). Students’ everyday knowledge and experiences as resources in educational dialogues. Instructional Science, 46(2), 291-313

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023. article id 55251
Keywords [en]
adolescence, everyday stressors, mental health, wellbeing
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-64649OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-64649DiVA, id: diva2:1821565
Conference
ECER - European Conference on Educational Research, 22-25 August 2023, Glasgow, UK
Available from: 2023-12-20 Created: 2023-12-20 Last updated: 2023-12-22Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text in DiVA

Other links

Abstract

Authority records

Olander, Clas

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Olander, Clas
By organisation
Department of Natural Science, Mathematics and Society (NMS)Disciplinary literacy and inclusive teaching
Educational Sciences

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar

urn-nbn

Altmetric score

urn-nbn
Total: 30 hits
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf