Academic Language in Science Classroom Communication: A Two-Part Study on Moments of Style-Shifting

Conference: The European Conference on Education (ECE2020)
Title: Academic Language in Science Classroom Communication: A Two-Part Study on Moments of Style-Shifting
Stream: Language Development & Literacy
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Romina Posch, University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany
Sandra Nitz, University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany


Language is the most fundamental medium of classroom learning and teaching. Classroom communication covers various linguistic varieties (e.g. everyday or academic language) which are used and permanently switched by students as well as teachers. For natural-science subjects, the usage of academic language is considered of paramount importance since its appropriate use determines educational opportunities and the development of scientific literacy. Moments in which linguistic varieties are switched must be given special consideration when analysing the usage of academic language: moments of style-shifting mark the spots when speakers consciously or unconsciously feel the need to use a rather formal style. An analysis of these moments is likely to a) give a valuable insight into how, when and why students and teachers use academic language in science classrooms and therefore b) provide a solid basis on which a concept of academic language development can be created to support students’ educational opportunities in natural-science subjects. For this purpose, a qualitative two-part study will be conducted in science lessons of secondary schools. In the first study, science classroom communication will be videotaped, transcribed and qualitatively analysed by using MAXQDA. The focus of the analysis will concentrate on moments of style-shifting including academic language. The identification of these moments will generate the basis for a category system. In a subsequent interview study, students and teachers will then be asked about their language choice by using, inter alia, the method of stimulated recall in order to identify why they switched to academic language at certain points.