How science teachers can be more effective in teaching science concepts and how language affects misconceptions in science concepts

Kim Wai Thomas YEUNG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Whether a person’s mother tongue affects his learning of science concepts is a constant controversy among educators. In a bilingual society such as Hong Kong, terminologies commonly used in English and Chinese, such as energy and force, create frequent misconceptions and sometimes different types of misconceptions. The purpose of this study is to ascertain if there are different patterns of misconceptions in science concepts between Chinese speaking students and English speaking students. If so, how can we benefit from these patterns and help science teachers to be more effective. In May and June of 1988, 7.01 Form 1 and Form 4 Hong Kong science students completed a questionnaire on energy and force. Forty-one Form 4 students were interviewed using the Interview-about-Instances technique. Fifty percent of the student sample were English-speaking while the rest were Chinese-speaking. Results of this study were analysed using a list f common misconception frameworks. Amazing patterns of misconceptions were found in both language groups. Come patterns can be seen clearly to have derived from the language used. Different patterns of misconception between the two language groups were demonstrated remarkably. It was clear that everyday usage of the terms contributed to the differences. The history of the terms and the common usage of the related terms in their respective languages were also accountable to the patterns. Science teachers are strongly advised to be aware of the students’ alternative frameworks in the learning of science concepts within the context of their mother tongue. Everyday meaning of terminologies used for important science concepts should be considered thoroughly in writing up lesson plans. Related terms and their meaning should also be checked before actually teaching the concept. List of common misconception patterns of students for each important science concept should also be discussed. As evident from the findings of this research, a person’s language does affect his scientific world view and in turn, affects his learning of science concepts. This can be regarded as a mini-proof of Whorf’s famous “Linguistic Relativity”. What we are trying to do here is to capitalize on these findings and help our science teachers so that they can be more effective. We believe that our list of common misconception patterns and the reasons behind them are very helpful to science teachers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1995

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Teaching
teacher
language
science
speaking
student
language group
mother tongue
technical language
Hong Kong
learning
energy
human being
educator
linguistics
questionnaire
history
interview

Citation

Yeung, K. W. (1995, November). How science teachers can be more effective in teaching science concepts and how language affects misconceptions in science concepts. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association 12th Annual Conference: Rethinking Education: Reflective Practice, Professionalism and Postmodernization, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.