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'Complex and confusing': the language demands of science texts

Lodge, W; (2021) 'Complex and confusing': the language demands of science texts. Research in Science & Technological Education , 39 (4) pp. 489-505. 10.1080/02635143.2020.1772740. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: In many classrooms, science textbooks remain a significant tool, functioning in some instances as the de facto curriculum and influencing pedagogical practices. Such conventions are more noticeable in the science classrooms of developing countries, like Jamaica, because of a chronic shortage of specialist science teachers and the scarcity of equipment for laboratory activities. Given the centrality of science textbooks and their ubiquitous use, it is important that they meet the requirements of the learners. Yet, much empirical evidence indicate that the language of science textbooks remains incomprehensible to many students. / Purpose: This paper attempts to ascertain the extent to which the language of a popular science textbook is accessible to Jamaican students. / Sample: A purposive sampling technique was used to determine the sample which consisted of 450 Year 7 students drawn from five secondary school types in Jamaica. In addition, sub-samples of 30 students and 18 teachers from the five school types were selected for focus groups and interviews. Design and methods: This study combined readability formulae, cloze tests, focus groups and individual interview research methods. Such an approach not only afforded triangulation that enhanced the credibility of the findings but also provided interesting contrasting perspectives to address the research question. / Results: The empirical evidence from the cloze test and readability index indicates that the textbook studied was challenging and demanding for the target audience. Data from the interviews indicates that the language used in the construction of science content knowledge in textbooks was the main source of difficulty for many Jamaican students. The major areas of language difficulties were related to the unsystematic use of scientific terminologies and the overuse of complex sentences. / Conclusion: A Vygotskyan scaffolding intervention framework which includes using a smaller number of key vocabulary words is recommended.

Type: Article
Title: 'Complex and confusing': the language demands of science texts
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/02635143.2020.1772740
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2020.1772740
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Language demand, creole-speaking environment, Jamaican standard English, science vocabulary
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10096540
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