Use of scientific language in instruction and performance in chemistry: a study of selected secondary schools of Kabarnet Division, Baringo District, Kenya
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The language barrier could account for the difficulty that learners and teachers find within science education leading to low performance in the science subjects at the secondary school level. The language used by chemistry teachers when presenting science concepts, principles and skills during the process of instruction may attract students to the study of chemistry ( swing towards chemistry) or may discourage them (cause a swing away from chemistry). Thus, the use of language of instruction deserves careful attention. This study was therefore conducted to determine teachers' ability to highlight and explain the meaning of scientific terminology related to chemistry. The primary focus of the study was to establish the relationship between teachers' professional training and experience and their ability to highlight and explicitly explain scientific terms encountered during instruction. The study was also interested in finding out if students grasped a number of selected scientific terms the teachers used during instruction and if there was a difference between boys' and girls' performance in Chemistry in relation to scientific language. The study employed a cross-sectional survey design. The target population from. which the sample for the study was drawn comprised all public secondary schools in Kabarnet division of Baringo district, Kenya. A total of twenty seven (27) chemistry teachers, six of whom took part in lesson observation sessions, and two hundred and seventy (270) Form three chemistry students participated in the study. Chemistry Teachers' Questionnaire (CTQ) and Lesson Observation Schedule (LOS) were used to solicit information regarding, teachers' professional training and experience and their ability to highlight and explain scientific terms related to chemistry. Students Interview Schedule (SIS) and the Chemistry Achievement Test (CHAT) were used to obtain information on students' understanding of scientific terms encountered during instruction and to determine if there was a significant difference with respect to boys' and girls' performance in chemistry regarding scientific language. Boys' and girls' performance in the CHAT was analyzed using the mean and the t-Test whereas the relationship between teachers' professional training and experience and their ability to highlight and explain scientific terms were analyzed using frequency distribution and chi-square (,i) test. The study revealed that chemistry teachers' professional training and experience has no direct relationship with their ability to highlight and explain scientific terms related to chemistry. Similarly, boys' and girls' performance in chemistry did not differ significantly. Based on the results of this study, the findings raise questions pertaining to the inconsistency between chemistry teachers' professional training and experience and their ability to emphasize scientific terms that label a range of concepts; students' inability to grasp meanings of scientific terms of chemical nature; and whether or not the skill to learn scientific terms is actually developed in the context of content delivery.