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Durham e-Theses
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A case study exploring developments in
non-traditional potential undergraduates’ understandings of chemical language.

REES, SIMON,WILLIAM (2017) A case study exploring developments in
non-traditional potential undergraduates’ understandings of chemical language.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (PhD Thesis) - Accepted Version


This study investigates learning outcomes achieved by Foundation programme (Year 0) students preparing over one academic year to progress to a three year Bachelor’s degree in biological science, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, medicine, pharmacy or physics. The thesis reports the development of a range of teaching activities focussing on students’ chemical language. Knowledge of chemical language is vital to developing student understanding but is an under-researched area.

The teaching activities comprise a range of language focused strategies. A unique corpus of student work (Foundation Corpus or FOCUS) from Year 0 to PhD level is developed that is used in a range of corpus linguistics based teaching activities. Other activities include word games, mini-whiteboards, modelling and directed activities related to text.

Quantitative data were collected from eighty six students over two years by the development of a unique chemical language diagnostic test (CLDT). The test assesses understanding of a range of chemical language: scientific affixes, fundamental words (such as atom or molecule), acid and bases, kinetic theory, non-technical words, symbolic language and technical words. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from six students over four years by semi-structured interviews. The data consists of explanations of chemical scenarios and is analysed for students’ usage of chemical language. Twenty students undertake an eye tracker task that provides quantitative data on students’ eye movements when reading text.

Outcomes indicate strong correlations between initial CLDT score and chemistry examination score at the end of Year 0. This suggests that students scoring poorly on chemical language face more challenges to reach the required grade to pass Year 0 than those with better linguistic skills. Evidence is provided for the existence of “chemical interlanguage” and discusses linguistic demand in multiple dimensions. The study reinforces the need to engage positively with chemical language acquisition, offering strategies for developing this and methods for its assessment.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Chemical language Corpora Non-traditional students Foundation
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 May 2017 12:11

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