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De naturvetenskapliga ämnesspråken: De naturvetenskapliga uppgifterna i och elevers resultat från TIMSS 2011 år 8
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education.
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
The subject languages of science education : The science items and students' results from TIMSS 2011 year 8 (English)
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. , 129 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Educational Sciences, 9
Keyword [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281323ISBN: 978-91-554-9536-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-281323DiVA: diva2:915945
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: 2016-05-12
List of papers
1. Features and Functions of Scientific Language(s) in TIMSS 2011
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, 176-196 p.Article 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.

Keyword
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: 2017-11-30Bibliographically approved
2. 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.
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. 1, no 2, 1-27 p.Article 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.

Keyword
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: 2016-05-12
3. The Vocabulary of Swedish Grade Eight Science Items in TIMSS 2011.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Vocabulary of Swedish Grade Eight Science Items in TIMSS 2011.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study investigates the Swedish vocabulary used in 8th grade science items in different subjects in TIMSS 2011. 8145 words are compared with three Swedish corpora for written texts representing; a limited vocabulary, a general Swedish vocabulary and the vocabulary used in Swedish school textbooks. 720 different low frequency words are further analysed. 78% are nouns, where 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.

Keyword
academic language, language of schooling, science education, corpus linguistics, large scale assessment, scientific language, TIMSS, vocabulary
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281312 (URN)
Available from: 2016-03-31 Created: 2016-03-22 Last updated: 2016-05-12

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