Literacy and Knowledge Acquisition in Science Education for Second-language Learners

Review question

The purpose of the research summary is to present research on methods that can promote second language speakers’ language development as well knowledge development within the natural sciences (biology, physics and chemistry). We have focused the overview on studies covering pupils in upper secondary and sixth form.


Many students in the Swedish school system have another first language than Swedish. Many of these students face the dual challenge of learning a new language while at the same time acquiring knowledge in all the school subjects in this new, or second, language. In particular, the academic language that is used in school education, can be a difficult.
In order to give all students the same prerequisites for a good and continuous knowledge development, language development of second-language students needs to be supported in all subjects, not just in second-language learning. Teachers have expressed a need for knowledge about how they can support literacy and knowledge acquisition within the science subjects.
The focus on upper secondary school and sixth form is motivated by the fact that the challenges are greater the later in their schooling students will come to Sweden. In addition, the science language becomes increasingly demanding the higher we get in the curriculum stage.

Project group

The project is carried out by a project team consisting of external researchers (specialists in the field) and employees at the Institute.

External researchers

Britt Jakobson, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Stockholm University
Åsa Wedin, Professor in Educational work, Dalarna University

From the Institute

Ida Envall, PhD, Project manager
Karolina Fredriksson, PhD, Assistant project manager
Maria Bergman, Project assistant