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The development of chemical language usage by “non-traditional” students: the interlanguage analogy

Rees, S.W. and Kind, V. and Newton, D. (2018) 'The development of chemical language usage by “non-traditional” students: the interlanguage analogy.', Research in science education., 51 (2). pp. 419-438.


Students commonly find specialist scientific language problematic. This study investigated developments in chemical language usage by six non-traditional students over the course of 1 to 4 years. The students participated in semi-structured interviews and were asked to explain specific chemical scenarios. Interviews were transcribed and analysed for the correct use of macroscopic and sub-microscopic scientific language and occurrences of interlanguage. Results indicate that students experienced difficulties incorporating sub-microscopic language into their explanations. Students also demonstrated potential chemical interlanguage, which we characterise as transitioning from vague to defined use, combining everyday and scientific language, interchanging terms and omission of terms and formulaic phrases. Implications of these findings are discussed in relation to science pedagogy.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Date accepted:22 November 2018
Date deposited:03 December 2018
Date of first online publication:19 December 2018
Date first made open access:17 May 2021

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