Language use in a science classroom: a case of form one science classes in a public secondary school in Tanzania

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Peter Kajoro

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Lilian Vikiru

Third Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. John N. Maundu


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


Language plays a crucial role in meaningful learning in science education. However what matters most is not merely language, but the way teachers and students use language during science teaching and learning. This study, therefore, sought to investigate how language is used in a science classroom, in a public secondary school in Tanzania. The study employed a qualitative approach and data collection methods were interviews, classroom observations and document analysis. The research participants were three science teachers and ten students of form one. The study found out that English, Kiswahili, and scientific registers are the languages used in a science classroom. However, the study revealed that, teachers are not comfortable with using Kiswahili during science teaching and learning and they regard it as a language for clarification.

The finding indicates that, Kiswahili is deliberately used as a language for clarifications so- as facilitate students’ understanding of science content and it also serves the purpose of surmounting the problem of students’ limited vocabulary in English. Meanwhile, English is purposively used for notes writing and exercise writing, the purposes which can not be served by Kiswahili language. The study also underscored the factors influencing language use in science classroom: Language policy and language exposure are factors which facilitate language use, while teachers’ influence and class level are factors which hinder the use of language during science classroom teaching and learning process.

Finally, the report recommends that, science teachers should be free (allow students also) to use Kiswahili and whatever communicative resources available to facilitate students’ scientific conceptual understanding. They should provide students with opportunities to use language and enhance students’ development of critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Science teachers should use collaborative and language development through inter students’ communication. For teacher educators, this report recommends that, they should equip science teacher’s teacher with pedagogical skills related to effective language use in a science classroom.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library