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Description of impact

Learning science through a second language is a common phenomenon across classrooms around the world. Hong Kong secondary students generally perform well in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as reflected in both local and international STEM-related assessments and competitions. However, according to recent studies, local students face limitations in unleashing their full potential in STEM subjects due to the language barrier that hinders the effective exchange of ideas. Language is an integral part of learning science as students can actively engage in the practices of science – from conducting more sophisticated investigations to expressing their ideas and findings in a professional sense.

Supported by the Quality Education Fund, Dr Jack PUN, Assistant Professor at CityU’s Department of English, and his team sought to apply a genre-based pedagogical approach to enhance local secondary school students’ English writing ability in science subjects. The team conducted 12-week writing workshops with nine local secondary schools. Students were taught how to write scientific reports through learning materials that were based on common lexico-grammatical features found in scientific writing, along with learning activities designed to help students write effective and accurate texts. Rather than simply honing in on the specifics of the scientific report, students were able to explore linguistic features that they could later apply to other disciplines as well as their future aspirations, thereby improving students’ English competence in making appropriate choices in their subject-specific genre of writing.

The ultimate goal of the project is to prepare students for understanding how genre-appropriate English communication helps in developing various types of professional identity needed for participation in disciplinary communities. Not only do the students benefit from the workshops, the project also assists teachers of English-medium secondary schools with the dissemination of teaching resources and a teaching guide. Secondary students and educators are welcome to view the writing tips videos and download the teaching and learning resources from the project’s website.