School & District Management Report Roundup

Science in Plain English

By Sean Cavanagh — August 25, 2008 1 min read
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Students introduced to science concepts in everyday English before having them explained in more complex scientific language fare better on tests than students who are given more science-heavy terminology upfront, a study concludes.

Conducted by Bryan A. Brown and Kihyun Ryoo of Stanford University and published in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, the research was based on observing 49 5th graders, who were randomly assigned to either a group taught with everyday language before scientific lingo was used or a control group taught with more precise scientific vocabulary.

The study used Web-based software to test students’ understanding of photosynthesis. The results showed that students taught in everyday language, or, as the authors put it, with a “content-first” approach, developed improved understanding of science, compared with the other group.

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A version of this article appeared in the August 27, 2008 edition of Education Week

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