The Challenge of Science Language & Culture


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We have all experienced it before. You may have been in a classroom or simply having a conversation with someone and they proceed to explain something with a barrage of incomprehensible jargon. What did they just say? Why did they say it that way and in those words? That theā€¦? In these moments, it is not the idea that people are struggling to understand. Instead, it is the language that was used to explain the concept that is the problem. Given the enormous number of new ideas in science that carry with them new terminology, students are often in situations where the language of instruction causes them confusion. This language dilemma becomes even more complicated because as people hear or read complicated explanations of science ideas they may feel like they are not supposed to be a part of that community. When we apply this idea to the context of a classroom teacher, we have to begin to question whether or not science teachers understand the ideas that students are expressing when those ideas are not being expressed using science language. For many years, the Science In The City research team has explored the many challenges of this language identity dilemma. The information on this page will introduce you to many of the research studies that have explored ways that we can improve science teaching by being attuned to this very real science language dilemma.

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