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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Rees, S.W., Kind, V. & Newton, D. (2019). Meeting the Challenge of Chemical Language Barriers in University Level Chemistry Education. Israel Journal of Chemistry 58(6-7): 470-477.

Author(s) from Durham


The specific yet varied challenges chemical language presents to students learning the subject are widely recognised. However, to effectively engage a student population becoming increasingly diverse in terms of culture, language and prior knowledge chemistry educators must develop pedagogical strategies that address issues of language comprehension. In this paper we discuss the body of literature that provides evidence of the multiple challenges that the language of chemistry presents students. These include: words in a scientific context, words with dual meaning, similar words and symbolic language. The chemistry learning triplet is used to illustrate how students must use chemical language to move between the macroscopic, sub‐microscopic and symbolic levels. Combining evidence from our research and the wider literature we describe a novel model of linguistic demand in multiple dimensions that represents the challenge of chemical language. This model can be used to assess the linguistic demand of teaching resources and to focus the appropriate use of language and literacy informed pedagogical strategies.

School of Education