New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Learning about Science through Language

David Casenove, The University of Tokyo (Japan)


When beginning their academic careers, science students are often facing difficulties with the communication of their findings using the genre-specific features of scientific English. This difficulty is even compounded for students using English as a foreign language.

Falsifiabilty is a character of science that is often overlooked by Japanese high schools due to scientific curricula at that level emphasizing the memorization of facts and the demonstration of pre-established findings. This lack of awareness, comforted by the international publication skewed towards positive results, is reflected in student reports as they often overstate findings reported in scientific publications and classify negative results as reflective of poorly conducted experimental procedures.

This study conducted at the University of Tokyo focuses on the use of hedging in scientific reports written in English by Japanese first year undergraduates. Students entering the university as science majors are all required to take an English language class specifically designed to address scientific writing (Active Learning of English for Science Students). This course is ultimately sanctioned by a report that students have to write using data obtained through an experiment of their own design.

Our findings show that focusing on the linguistic aspects of hedging helps students re-assessing the falsifiability of published findings as well as locating more accurately their own work within the existing body of scientific findings. We propose that exposing students to various samples of scientific writing as well as guiding them through the examination of genre-specific hedges could benefit even native speakers who are internalizing the concepts of falsifiability and the experiential nature of science.


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