Dual meaning vocabulary (DMV) words in learning chemistry
Learning chemistry vocabulary that has both scientific and everyday meanings, which we call dual meaning vocabulary (DMV), can be challenging for many students. This qualitative study investigated how college students understand 11 selected DMV words before and after traditional chemistry instruction and to what extent they retain the scientific meanings of them. The challenges these students encountered as they learned DMV words were also examined. Thirteen non-science major students with limited chemistry background were interviewed throughout the study. Data were analyzed by inductive analysis utilizing a grounded theory approach and constant comparative methods. Our results indicate that (1) most college students initially held everyday meanings of the selected DMV words, which were deeply associated with their personal experiences from early years; (2) the everyday meanings of DMV were continuously rooted in students' thinking after instruction so that they struggled with retaining the scientific meanings of it; and (3) the infrequent use of DMV in meaningful contexts, students' rote memorization of DMV, and a lack of prior understanding of other science vocabularies were identified as challenges in learning DMV. These themes are discussed in-depth with various theoretical perspectives in investigating the relationship between everyday and scientific language and understanding. Concrete implications for teaching DMV in chemistry are proposed. The study also calls for further research on the role of the language of science in chemistry education.