Let's Talk Physics: Utilizing Language to Improve Understanding

Bobby Zoeller, '10, Leah A. Nillas

Research output: Faculty Advisor of Undergraduate Research


Einstein once stated that "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." This idea can be useful in the context of a physics classroom where students often struggle with conceptual and mathematical understanding. The purpose of this study is to analyze strategies to improve student comprehension using language based instruction and assessment techniques. This research was conducted in a public high school physics classroom consisting primarily of junior and senior level students. Students were provided with instruction that focused on discussion and conceptual understanding before any introduction to formulae. Furthermore, students were also asked to construct their own definitions of concepts during class and on assignments. Data showed that students who developed a linguistic explanation of concepts demonstrated a higher level of understanding. This result was also reflected in students' homework, assessment, and participation in general discussion of physics concepts.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2010


  • Education
  • Mathematics

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