Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 103–126 | Cite as

Developing Elementary Teachers’ Understandings of Hedges and Personal Pronouns in Inquiry-Based Science Classroom Discourse



This study examined the effectiveness of introducing elementary teachers to the scholarly literature on personal pronouns and hedges in classroom discourse, a professional development strategy adopted during a summer institute to enhance teachers’ social understanding (i.e., their understanding of the social functions of language in science discussions). Teachers became aware of how hedges can be employed to remain neutral toward students’ oral contributions to classroom discussions, invite students to share their opinions and articulate their own ideas, and motivate students to inquire. Teachers recognized that the combined use of I and you can render their feedback authoritative, you can shift the focus from the investigation to students’ competence, and we can lead to authority loss. It is argued that explicitness, reflectivity, and contextualization are essential features of professional development programs aimed at improving teachers’ understandings of the social dimension of inquiry-based science classrooms and preparing teachers to engage in inquiry-based teacher–student interactions.


Classroom discourse analysis Language of science Professional development Teacher education Elementary practicing teachers Hedges Pronouns 


  1. Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Akerson, V. L. (2004). Learning as conceptual change: Factors mediating the development of preservice elementary teachers’ views of nature of science. Science Education, 88, 785–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akerson, V. L., Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Lederman, N. G. (2000). Influence of a reflective explicit activity-based approach on elementary teachers’ conceptions of nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 295–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akerson, L. V., & Hanuscin, D. L. (2007). Teaching nature of science through inquiry: Results of a three-year professional development program. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, 653–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amit, M., & Fried, M. N. (2005). Authority and authority relations in mathematics education: A view from an 8th-grade classroom. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 58, 145–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Basista, B., Tomlin, J., Pennington, K., & Pugh, D. (2001). Inquiry-based integrated science and mathematics professional development program. Education, 121, 615–624.Google Scholar
  6. Bernard, H. R. (2002). Research methods in anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (5th ed.). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (2003). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theory and methods (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, R., & Gilman, A. (1960). The pronouns of power and solidarity. In T. Sebeok (Ed.), Style in language (pp. 253–276). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. Buck, G., Latta, M. M., & Leslie-Pelecky, D. (2007). Learning how to make inquiry into electricity and magnetism discernible to middle level teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18(3), 377–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bybee, R. W. (1997). Achieving scientific literacy: From purposes to practices. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  11. Caton, E., Brewer, C., & Brown, F. (2000). Building teacher-scientist partnerships: Teaching about energy through inquiry. School Science and Mathematics, 100, 7–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chin, C. (2006). Classroom interaction in science: Teacher questioning and feedback to students’ responses. International Journal of Science Education, 28, 1315–1346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chin, C. (2007). Teacher questioning in science classrooms: Approaches that stimulate productive thinking. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, 815–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clough, M. P. (2006). Learners’ responses to the demands of conceptual change: Considerations for effective nature of science instruction. Science Education, 15, 463–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  16. Emerson, R. M., Fretz, R. I., & Shaw, L. L. (1995). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  17. Fortanet, I. (2004). The use of “we” in university lectures: Reference and function. English for Specific Purposes, 23, 45–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  19. Herbel-Eisenmann, B. A. (2007). From intended curriculum to written curriculum: Examining the “voice” of a mathematics textbook. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 38, 344–369.Google Scholar
  20. Hyland, K. (2002). Directives: Argument and engagement in academic writing. Applied Linguistics, 23, 215–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hyland, K. (2005). Stance and engagement: A model of interaction in academic discourse. Discourse Studies, 7, 173–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jeanpierre, B., Oberhauser, K., & Freeman, C. (2005). Characteristics of professional development that effect change in secondary science teachers’ classroom practices. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42, 668–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson, C. C., Kahle, J. B., & Fargo, J. D. (2007). A study of the effect of sustained, whole-school professional development on student achievement in science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, 775–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lakoff, G. (1972). Hedges: A study in meaning criteria and the logic of fuzzy concepts. Papers from the Eighth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society (pp. 123–228). Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.Google Scholar
  25. Lee, O., Hart, J. E., Cuevas, P., & Enders, C. (2004). Professional development in inquiry-based science for elementary teachers of diverse student groups. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41, 1021–1043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  27. Lotter, C., Harwood, W. S., & Bonner, J. J. (2006). Overcoming a learning bottleneck: Inquiry professional development for secondary science teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 17, 185–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Morgan, C. (1996). The language of mathematics: Towards a critical analysis of mathematicstexts. For the Learning of Mathematics, 16, 2–10.Google Scholar
  29. Mortimer, E. F., & Scott, P. H. (2003). Meaning making in secondary science classrooms. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Oliveira, A. W., Colak, H., & Akerson, V. L. (2009). Curriculum translation and environmental education: Considering issues of discursive intentionality, interpretation, and validity. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 4, 149–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oliveira, A. W., Sadler, T. D., & Suslak, D. F. (2007a). Analyzing language, interaction and outcomes in an inquiry-oriented classroom. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 2, 165–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Oliveira, A. W., Sadler, T. D., & Suslak, D. F. (2007b). The linguistic construction of expert identity in professor–student discussions of science. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 2, 119–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Peters, J. M., & Stout, D. L. (2006). Science in elementary education: Methods, concepts, and Inquiries (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  34. Pimm, D. (1987). Speaking mathematically: Communication in mathematics classrooms. London: Routledge Kegan & Paul.Google Scholar
  35. Polman, J. L. (2004). Dialogic activity structures for project-based learning environments. Cognition and Instruction, 22, 431–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Robson, C. (2002). Real world research (2nd ed.). United Kingdom: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  37. Roth, W.-M. (1996). Teacher questioning in an open-inquiry learning environment: Interactions of context, content, and student responses. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33, 709–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rounds, P. (1987a). Characterizing successful classroom discourse for NNS teaching assistant training. TESOL Quarterly, 21, 643–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rounds, P. (1987b). Multifunctional personal pronoun use in an educational setting. English for Specific Purposes, 6, 13–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rowland, T. (1999). Pronouns in mathematics talk: Power, vagueness, and generalization. For the Learning of Mathematics, 19, 19–25.Google Scholar
  41. Rowland, T. (2000). The pragmatics of mathematics education: Vagueness in mathematical discourse. London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  42. Schwartz, R. S., Lederman, N. G., & Crawford, B. S. (2004). Developing views of nature of science in an authentic context: An explicit approach to bridging the gap between nature of science and scientific inquiry. Science Education, 88, 610–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tabak, I., & Baumgartner, E. (2004). The teacher as partner: Exploring participant structures, symmetry, and identity work in scaffolding. Cognition and Instruction, 22, 393–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. van Zee, E. H., Iwasyk, M., Kurose, A., Simpson, D., & Wild, J. (2001). Student and teacher questioning during conversations about science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(2), 159–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. van Zee, E. H., & Minstrell, J. (1997a). Reflective discourse: Developing shared understandings in a physics classroom. International Journal of Science Education, 19, 209–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. van Zee, E. H., & Minstrell, J. (1997b). Using questioning to guide student thinking. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 6, 229–271.Google Scholar
  47. Wee, B., Shepardson, D., Fast, J., & Harbor, J. (2007). Teaching and learning about inquiry: Insights and challenges in professional development. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18, 63–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wells, G. (1993). Reevaluating the IRF sequence: A proposal for the articulation of theories of activity and discourse for the analysis of teaching and learning in the classroom. Linguistics and Education, 5, 1–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wortham, S. E. F. (1992). Participant examples and classroom interaction. Linguistics and Education, 4, 195–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wortham, S. E. F. (1996). Mapping participant deictics: A technique for discovering speakers’ footing. Journal of Pragmatics, 25, 331–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Yerrick, R., Parke, H., & Nugent, J. (1997). Struggling to promote deeply rooted change: The ‘filtering effect’ of teachers’ beliefs on understanding transformational views of teaching science. Science Education, 81, 137–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Yip, D. Y. (2004). Questioning skills for conceptual change in science instruction. Journal of Biological Education, 38, 76–83.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Theory and PracticeState University of New York at AlbanyAlbanyUSA

Personalised recommendations