Shining Light on Language for, in, and as Science Content

Science & Education 27 (7-8):769-782 (2018)
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Abstract

The work of science is a linguistic act. However, like history and philosophy of science, language has frequently been isolated from science content due to factors such as school departmentalization and narrow definitions of what it means to teach, know, and do science. This conceptual article seeks to recognize and recognize—to understand and yet rethink—science content in light of the vision of science expected by academic standards. Achieving that vision requires new perspectives in science teaching and teacher education that look into the role that science language expectations play in science content. These perspectives reposition attention to language from a hidden, overlooked, or outsourced aspect of science teaching, to one at its core. To help bring teachers and teacher educators into this integrative view of science content, this article offers a mirror, a prism, and a lens as three metaphorical tools to explore the essential roles that language plays for, in, and as science content. The reflection, refraction, and refocusing of science content reveal complex science language expectations that function alongside facts, figures, and formulas of science as gatekeeping mechanisms that, once noticed, cannot be ignored or marginalized in science teaching and science teacher education.

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