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Keywords:

  • biology;
  • language of science classrooms;
  • elementary;
  • equity

Abstract

Our research project was guided by the assumption that students who learn to understand phenomena in everyday terms prior to being taught scientific language will develop improved understanding of new concepts. We used web-based software to teach students using a “content-first” approach that allowed students to transition from everyday understanding of phenomena to the use of scientific language. This study involved 49 minority students who were randomly assigned into two groups for analysis: a treatment group (taught with everyday language prior to using scientific language) and a control group (taught with scientific language). Using a pre–post-test control group design, we assessed students' conceptual and linguistic understanding of photosynthesis. The results of this study indicated that students taught with the “content-first” approach developed significantly improved understanding when compared to students taught in traditional ways. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 45: 529–553, 2008