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Uses of "understand" in science education

Journal article
Authors Oskar Lindwall
Gustav Lymer
Published in Journal of Pragmatics
Volume 43
Issue 2
Pages 452-474
Publication year 2011
Published at The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction, and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS)
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Pages 452-474
Language en
Keywords Science education; Interaction; Ethnomethodology
Subject categories Pedagogy, Communication Studies


For this study, thirty hours of video-recorded and transcribed interaction taken from a lab course in a teacher education program have been examined. Throughout this material, utterances such as ‘‘I don’t understand’’ or ‘‘do you get it’’ are strikingly frequent. This has motivated us to investigate the positioning, use, and interactional significance of utterances that include ‘‘get it,’’ ‘‘understand,’’ or any of their conjugations. The investigated material is presented and organized into five themes: students requesting help from other students; students requesting help fromteachers; students asking other students if they understand; uses of ‘‘understand’’ in the closing of a task; and teachers’ uses of ‘‘understand.’’While the range of uses of ‘‘understand’’ is wide, it is interesting to note that there are some clear distributional patterns. An overwhelming majority of the investigated uses concerns the assignment, the purpose of the lab, or the subject matter content. In addition, they are often found in the closing and opening of task-based activities and instructional sequences. One can further note that the investigated uses of ‘‘understand’’ are constrained by different sets of rights and obligations for students and teachers.

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