The Benefits of Teaching Students the Language of Physics

IGI Global
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Sustainable Language Support Practises in Science Education, 2011, 1, pp. 160 - 194
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First year physics courses for non-physics majors are among the most difficult course to cope with for science and engineering students alike. Not only are students confronted with physics specific concepts and mathematics applied in unfamiliar environment, students also have to learn the specific lingo of physics and keep it separate from common language and language used in their own field of major. Anecdotally, we know that students have to master the language of their respective field of study in order to master the field. We investigated the link between language of physics used in our first year physics lectures, understanding of related physics concept, and student performance after a language focused intervention. We found that a language conscious approach in first year physics not only improved the performance of students of non-English background but also benefited the performance of students of native English speaking background.
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