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Persson, Tomas, LektorORCID iD iconorcid.org/0000-0001-7412-2287
Publications (10 of 12) Show all publications
Bergvall, I. & Persson, T. (2019). The Information Density of School Mathematics. In: : . Paper presented at NERA 2019 - Education in a globalized world. Uppsala 6-8 March, 2019..
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Information Density of School Mathematics
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-381257 (URN)
Conference
NERA 2019 - Education in a globalized world. Uppsala 6-8 March, 2019.
Available from: 2019-04-05 Created: 2019-04-05 Last updated: 2019-04-15Bibliographically approved
Persson, T. (2019). Vokabulären i svenska nationella prov i naturvetenskap för år 6 och år 9 samt i TIMSS 2011 år 8. In: Forum för textforskning 14, Uppsala universitet 10-11 juni 2019: ”Mått och mätbarhet 3” Om kvantitativa metoder inom text- och språkforskning. Paper presented at Forum för textforskning 14, Uppsala, 10-11 juni 2019.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Vokabulären i svenska nationella prov i naturvetenskap för år 6 och år 9 samt i TIMSS 2011 år 8
2019 (Swedish)In: Forum för textforskning 14, Uppsala universitet 10-11 juni 2019: ”Mått och mätbarhet 3” Om kvantitativa metoder inom text- och språkforskning, 2019Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [sv]

Här presenteras en metod för samt resultat från en pågående undersökning av språkbruket i de tre nationella proven i naturvetenskap i tre olika ämnen för år 6. Syftet med undersökningen är att undersöka vokabulären som används i de nationella proven, såväl proven som helhet och uppdelat på de tre ämnena biologi, kemi och fysik. Detta för att kunna identifiera eventuella skillnader i såväl ämnesspråkliga som åldersmässigt språkbruk.

National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-392925 (URN)
Conference
Forum för textforskning 14, Uppsala, 10-11 juni 2019
Available from: 2019-09-11 Created: 2019-09-11 Last updated: 2019-09-16Bibliographically approved
Bergvall, I. & Persson, T. (2018). The Subject Language Use In Year 8 TIMSS-Test Questions : A Comparison Of Language Uses In Science And Mathematics. In: Network Sessions as ECER 2018: . Paper presented at ECER 2018, 3–7 September 2018, Bolzano, Italy.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Subject Language Use In Year 8 TIMSS-Test Questions : A Comparison Of Language Uses In Science And Mathematics
2018 (English)In: Network Sessions as ECER 2018, 2018Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this study we want to make a contribution by making a comparison between the subject languages in mathematics and science based on linguistic theories about language and language function. Through this theoretical foundation in this present study we also have the opportunity to analyze the language function and thus we can also discuss the language's role in teaching. The aim of this study is to compare and thus gain more knowledge of grammatical features in subject language in science and mathematics and how these grammatical features are used to express meaning. To fulfil this purpose, science and mathematics items from Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011, grade eight, have been analysed from a functional perspective on language.

Empirical studies that compare language use in different subjects are sparsely present (Österholm & Bergqvist, 2013) but there are studies pointing out that how language are used to express meaning varies between different school subjects (e.g. Fang & Schleppegrell, 2008; Schleppegrell, 2004). These linguistic differences have been highlighted as arguments for a more differentiated language-based teaching of subjects, leaning on disciplinary literacy (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). In order to conduct such a language-based teaching of subjects, an awareness of the different functions in the language used in various school subject is of great importance. One example of a comparative language study is the corpus study conducted by Ribeck (2015) where the language in Swedish teaching materials in science is analyzed, and compared with teaching materials in social science and with textbooks in mathematics. However, Ribeck does not make a direct analysis of mathematical subject language, her focus is rather on the language used in natural science compared to social science. There are also studies that focuses on the language use within subjects. Here it appears that the subject language is used differently and has different functions in different content areas within school mathematics (e.g. Bergvall, 2016) as well as within the different school science subjects, e.g. biology, physics, chemistry and earth science (e.g. Persson, 2016).  

This study draws on a social semiotic perspective and systemic functional linguistics (SFL) (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004). A point of departure is the perspective that different registers of language are used in different social contexts, which in this study is defined as the two school subjects science and mathematics. Grounded in SFL and the three meta-functions ideational, interpersonal and textual function the meaning dimension model of analysis was developed in a previous research project (Bergvall et al., 2016; Persson et al., 2016). Four central meaning dimensions, packing, precision, personification and presentation, were condensed from previous research regarding academic language and language use in the school subjects science and mathematics. The meaning dimensions can be used as measures of how grammatical features are used in various types of texts in order to express meaning. Packing and precision are regarded as aspects of the ideational meta-function. Packing is a measure of the information density in a text and precision is a measure of how and to what extent the given information in the text is specified. Personification, as an aspect of the interpersonal meta-function, is a measure of how personal relations between the reader and the text are expressed. The last meaning dimension, presentation, concerns how the information is structured in the text and is regarded as an aspect of the textual meta-function. In the present study, the four meaning dimensions are used to describe and compare the language and its function in science and mathematics items in TIMSS 2011.

Method

By the use of a quantitative method all items in mathematics and science from the Swedish version of TIMSS 2011, grade eight were analyzed. This material consists of 197 items in science and 217 items in mathematics. The language in these items have been analyzed for word class, word length and number of words per items by a computer based automatic parsing. For this parsing Extensible Markup Language (XML) was used. Some other linguistic features, i.e. passive forms and subordinate clauses, were identified manually. Since the meaning dimensions are used as a base for the linguistic analysis, the results will possibly be generally applicable also for other European languages, although the analysis was conducted on the Swedish version of TIMSS items. Packing was measured by calculating the number of nouns and the number of long words (>6 characters). Precision in the items were provided by words such as adjectives, adverbs, participles and counting words specifying different attributes in the items. Personification was here measured by the number of personal pronouns and proper names and presentation was measured by the presence of subordinate clauses and passive forms. In order to compensate for the varying length of different items, the number of the different linguistic features were divided by the number of words in the particular item. To enable the adding of different features, each feature is normalized by calculating its z-score. An index was then calculated for each meaning dimension based on the linguistic information on each item. From these indices a comparison between the language uses in the two subjects was possible. In the next step of the analysis each subject were separated into content domains: Algebra, Data & chance, Geometry and Numbers for mathematics items and Biology, Chemistry, Earth science and Physics for science items. This enabled variations of language use within the subjects also to be analyzed. The results were compiled in box-plots diagrams which visualized the distribution of the expressions of the four meaning dimensions in the various content domains.

Expected Outcomes

Preliminary results show that central traits of the academic language as measured by the four meaning dimensions are used in similar ways in both science and mathematics. The levels of packing, precision and presentation are fairly similar when looking at differences between the subjects. Personification shows the largest differences between the subjects, where mathematics as a whole makes more use of personal pronouns and proper names in the items. When separating the subjects into content domains, Statistics shows the highest level of personification. In this domain it can therefore be concluded that human participants are essential, thus emphasizing that this is a domain that this is an area of relevance for people in general or for the student him/herself. This can be interpreted as signaling the possibility to actively participate and interact in similar situations as described by the items context. On the other hand, in domains such as Algebra, Geometry and Earth science where the content is expressed with a low level of personification, the interpretation is that the content of these domains –at least as expressed in TIMSS items- are more separated from peoples’ everyday lives and thus the students’ own reality. Another result that emerges from the analysis relates to the meaning dimension presentation where we see that the written texts, especially in Algebra, but also in Geometry, Numbers and Earth science, mainly contains short sentences without subordinate clauses. In written academic language, subordinate clauses are a common tool for creating information flow and link different parts of the text (Fang, 2006; Schleppegrell, 2004; Veel, 1997). The lack of subordinate clauses in tasks in certain content areas of TIMSS indicates a subject-specific linguistic form that may require a familiarity with this specific form of language use.

References

Bergvall, I. (2016). Bokstavligt, bildligt och symboliskt i skolans matematik – en studie om ämnesspråk i TIMSS. [Diss.] Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Bergvall, I., Wiksten Folkeryd, J., & Liberg, C. (2016). Linguistic features and their function in different mathematical content areas in TIMSS 2011. Nordic Studies in Mathematics Education, 21(2), 45-68. Fang, Z. (2006). The Language Demands of Science Reading in Middle School, International Journal of Science Education, 28(5) 491-520. Fang, Z., & Schleppegrell, M. J. (2008). Reading in secondary content areas: A language-based pedagogy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Halliday, M. A. K., & Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar (3.th ed.). London: Arnold. Persson, Tomas (2016). De naturvetenskapliga ämnesspråken. De naturvetenskapliga uppgifterna i och elevers resultat från TIMSS 2011 år 8. [Diss.] Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Persson, T., af Geijerstam, Å., & Liberg, C. (2016). Features and functions of scientific language(s) in TIMSS 2011. Nordic Studies in Science Education, 12(2), 176-196. Ribeck, Judy (2015). Steg för steg. Naturvetenskapligt ämnesspråk som räknas. [Diss.] Data linguistica. No. 28, Institutionen för svenska språket, Göteborgs universitet. Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking content-area literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 40–59. Schleppegrell, M. J. (2004). The language of schooling; a functional linguistics perspective. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Veel, R. (1997). Learning How to Mean-Scientifically Speaking: Apprenticeship into Scientific Discourse in the Secondary School. In. Christie Frances & Jim R. Martin (Eds.), Genre and Institutions: Social Processes in the Workplace and School, s. 161-195. London: Cassell. Österholm, M. & Bergqvist, E. (2013). What is so special about mathematical texts? Analyses of common claims in research literature and of properties of textbooks. ZDM Mathematics education, 45(5) 751-763.

National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-381256 (URN)
Conference
ECER 2018, 3–7 September 2018, Bolzano, Italy
Available from: 2019-04-05 Created: 2019-04-05 Last updated: 2019-04-08Bibliographically approved
Persson, T. (2018). The Vocabulary Of Swedish National Year 6 Science tests, Swedish National Year 9 Science Tests And TIMSS 2011 Year 8. In: ECER 2018: Network sessions. Paper presented at ECER 2018: Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research, 3–7 September 2018, Bolzano, Italy.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Vocabulary Of Swedish National Year 6 Science tests, Swedish National Year 9 Science Tests And TIMSS 2011 Year 8
2018 (English)In: ECER 2018: Network sessions, 2018Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

A prominent aspect of a subject specific language is the vocabulary, and this study is investigating the vocabulary used in different subjects in the Swedish national tests in science for year 6. This study is an expansion of a previous study of the vocabulary used in science tests in different subjects, i.e. biology, chemistry, and physics. Therefore comparisons are made regarding a Swedish national test in science for year 9 and science items from the Swedish version of TIMSS 2011 year 8.

Keywords
Scientific language, Scientific vocabulary, Student performance, Science education, Large scale testing
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-392920 (URN)
Conference
ECER 2018: Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research, 3–7 September 2018, Bolzano, Italy
Available from: 2019-09-11 Created: 2019-09-11 Last updated: 2019-09-16Bibliographically approved
Persson, T. (2016). De naturvetenskapliga ämnesspråken: De naturvetenskapliga uppgifterna i och elevers resultat från TIMSS 2011 år 8. (Doctoral dissertation). Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>De naturvetenskapliga ämnesspråken: De naturvetenskapliga uppgifterna i och elevers resultat från TIMSS 2011 år 8
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
The subject languages of science education : The science items and students' results from TIMSS 2011 year 8
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines the scientific language in different subjects by analysing all grade 8 science items from TIMSS 2011, using four characteristic meaning dimensions of scientific language – Packing, Precision and Presentation of information, and the level of Personification in a text. The results, as well as results from established readability measures, are correlated with test performances of different student groups. The TIMSS vocabulary is compared with three Swedish corpora where low frequency words are identified and further analysed.

The thesis challenges the notion that there is a single scientific language, as results show that the language use varies between subjects. Physics uses more words, biology shows higher Packing and lower Precision, while physics shows the opposite pattern. Items are generally low in Personification but physics has higher levels, earth science lower. Chemistry often presents information in more complex ways.

The use of meaning dimensions manages to connect the language use in science items to student performance, while established measures do not. For each subject, one or more of the meaning dimensions shows significant correlations with small to medium effect sizes. Higher Packing is positively correlated with students’ results in earth science, negatively correlated in physics, and has no significant correlations in biology or chemistry. Students’ performances decrease when placing items in everyday contexts, and skilled readers are aided by higher precision, while less-skilled seem unaffected. Many meaning dimensions that influence low performers’ results do not influence those of high performers, and vice versa.

The vocabulary of TIMSS and school textbooks are closely matched, but compared with more general written Swedish and a more limited vocabulary, the coverage drops significantly. Of the low frequency words 78% are nouns, where also most compound–, extra long– and made-up words are found. These categories and nominalisations are more common in biology and, except for made-up words, rare in chemistry. Abstract and generalizing nouns are frequent in biology and earth science, concrete nouns in chemistry and physics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. p. 129
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Educational Sciences ; 9
Keywords
science education, scientific language, assessment, readability formulas, student achievement, vocabulary, systemic functional linguistics, corpus linguistics, student achievement
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281323 (URN)978-91-554-9536-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-05-20, Bertil Hammer-salen, 24:K104, Blåsenhus, von Kraemers allé 1, Uppsala, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-04-28 Created: 2016-03-22 Last updated: 2018-07-04
Persson, T., af Geijerstam, Å. & Liberg, C. (2016). Features and Functions of Scientific Language(s) in TIMSS 2011. NorDiNa: Nordic Studies in Science Education, 12(2), 176-196
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Features and Functions of Scientific Language(s) in TIMSS 2011
2016 (English)In: NorDiNa: Nordic Studies in Science Education, ISSN 1504-4556, E-ISSN 1894-1257, Vol. 12, no 2, p. 176-196Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study examines differences in language use in different scientific subjects by analysing all grade 8 science items from TIMSS 2011. Four meaning dimensions are identified as central for analysing what functions different linguistic features fulfil in scientific language. They concern the levels of Packing, Precision and Presentation of information, and the level of Personification in a text.

The results show that language use in TIMSS differs in some ways among the scientific subjects. Average physics language uses more words. Language use in biology shows higher Packing and lower Precision, while physics shows the opposite pattern. Although items are generally low in Personification, the language of physics has higher levels of Personification, especially compared to earth science. Language in chemistry often presents information in more complex ways. According to these results, the study appears to challenge the notion that there is a single scientific language.

Keywords
science education, large-scale studies, scientific language, TIMSS, systemic functional linguistics
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281309 (URN)
Available from: 2016-03-31 Created: 2016-03-22 Last updated: 2018-07-04Bibliographically approved
Persson, T. (2016). The Language of Science and Readability: Correlations between Linguistic Features in TIMSS Science Items and the Performance of Different Groups of Swedish 8th Grade Students.. Nordic Journal of Literacy Research, 2, 1-27
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Language of Science and Readability: Correlations between Linguistic Features in TIMSS Science Items and the Performance of Different Groups of Swedish 8th Grade Students.
2016 (English)In: Nordic Journal of Literacy Research, Vol. 2, p. 1-27Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This exploratory study examines how linguistic features of the Swedish TIMSS 2011 grade 8 science items correlate with results from different groups of students. Language use in different science subjects is analysed using four characteristic meaning dimensions of scientific language: Packing, Precision, Presentation of information and Personification within the text, along with established measures of readability and information load.

For each subject, one or more of the meaning dimensions show statistically significant correlations with students’ performances with small to medium effect sizes. The results show that higher packing is positively correlated with students’ results in earth science, negatively correlated in physics, and has no significant correlations in biology or chemistry. Placing items in everyday contexts reduces the likelihood of the items being answered correctly, and skilled readers are aided by higher precision in items, while less skilled readers seem unaffected. Many meaning dimensions that influence high performers’ results do not influence those of low performers, and vice versa.

The use of meaning dimensions is shown to be an enriching complementary method for analysing language use in science, as it connects the language use in items to student performance, while established measures do not.

Keywords
Science education, large-scale studies, scientific language, TIMSS, readability, systemic functional linguistics, assessment, student achievement
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281310 (URN)10.17585/njlr.v2.186 (DOI)
Available from: 2016-03-31 Created: 2016-03-22 Last updated: 2018-07-04
Persson, T. (2016). The Swedish Vocabulary of TIMSS 2011 8th Year Science Questions, with a Special Focus on the Nature of Low-frequency Words. In: : . Paper presented at ECER 2016, Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Swedish Vocabulary of TIMSS 2011 8th Year Science Questions, with a Special Focus on the Nature of Low-frequency Words
2016 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-283138 (URN)
Conference
ECER 2016, Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers
Available from: 2016-04-11 Created: 2016-04-11 Last updated: 2018-07-04Bibliographically approved
Persson, T. (2015). Putting Meaning dimensions to the TIMSS-test. In: : . Paper presented at Skriv! Les! Nordisk forskerkonferanse om lesing, skriving og literacy, Stavanger, Norway, 18- 20 May 2015.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Putting Meaning dimensions to the TIMSS-test
2015 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-283123 (URN)
Conference
Skriv! Les! Nordisk forskerkonferanse om lesing, skriving og literacy, Stavanger, Norway, 18- 20 May 2015
Available from: 2016-04-11 Created: 2016-04-11 Last updated: 2018-07-04Bibliographically approved
Persson, T., af Geijerstam, Å. & Liberg, C. (2014). Linguistic features in TIMSS-Science Test Questions: Scaffolding or hampering different Groups of 8th grade Students?. In: : . Paper presented at ECER 2014 "The Past Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe", European Educational Research Association, Porto, September 1-5, 2014.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Linguistic features in TIMSS-Science Test Questions: Scaffolding or hampering different Groups of 8th grade Students?
2014 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Keywords
scientific language, scientific discourse, student performance, science education, large scale testing
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-235490 (URN)
Conference
ECER 2014 "The Past Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe", European Educational Research Association, Porto, September 1-5, 2014
Available from: 2014-11-10 Created: 2014-11-04 Last updated: 2018-07-04Bibliographically approved
Organisations
Identifiers
ORCID iD: ORCID iD iconorcid.org/0000-0001-7412-2287

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