Rethinking Teaching in the Sciences: April 7-27, 2008

Science is a language

Science is a language

by Alison Moran -
Number of replies: 3

Hello everyone,

It seems to me that science is a language and when teaching it we have to acknowledge this aspect. Like any other language the words and concepts must be used and manipulated to give them any meaning. I find that the greatest hurdle many students face is keeping track of and understanding vocabulary- not unlike any other language student. This can be a major problem when the student is new to science and many broad topics are being covered. Somehow we need to get them to use the words actively- say them aloud- manipulate them- practice- and not just read passivly or listen to a lecture. I have had some success building practice tools with online media, but would welcome any thoughts or ideas that could improve active language development.

Thanks

In reply to Alison Moran

Re: Science is a language

by Dominic Bergeron -
Hello Alison...nice to "see" you here. I agree with you. Language and the words of science are assembled in concepts. These concepts are like tools that help us build our knowledge just the same way we would build a time machine. Knowledge from the past provide the materials upon which our current knowledge is built. Our current knowledge helps us predict and plan for the future.
In reply to Alison Moran

Re: Science is a language

by Emma Duke-Williams -

I like the description - much as Papert described getting children to like Maths in Mindstorms.

I don't know the situation in the rest of the world, but in the UK, very few Primary School teachers are scientists, and so often are not very confident themselves, which tends to rub off on the children, who thus decide from quite an early stage that Science (and indeed Maths) is too hard/ boring/ whatever.

In reply to Alison Moran

Re: Science is a language

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Hi Allison,
I have been following the discussions via email and not responding due to an overloaded online schedule. I must say the discussions are very thought provoking and relevant to educators, the community, parents, and students. I would like to relate to Allison's observation that "the greatest hurdle many students face is keeping track of and understanding vocabulary". K-12 and higher education teachers in Israel seem to be very concerned about students' lack of language skills as a hurdle to understanding the material and test questions. It is as if students and teachers speak two different languages. We need to either learn students' vocabulary and teach in our students' language or teach them ours. I believe online courses may be effective in helping students improve their language skills. I would organize such courses on one of my Moodle sites for free. Anyone interested in joining me?