Teaching Multiliteracies in Scientific Discourse: Implications from Symbolic Construction of Chemistry*

  • Yu Liu Multimodal Analysis Lab, Interactive & Digital Media Institute (IDMI), National University of Singapore, 9 Prince George’s Park
Keywords: Multimodality, systemic-functional theory, chemical symbolism


Recent research on science education has increasingly focused on the literacy challenges posed by multimodality. While students are required by government mandated syllabi to make a successful translation between different semiotic resources, there still remains a lack of research on the grammars and functionality of the specialized modalities to develop explicit instructions to improve literacy practices. This paper analyses the semiotic resource of chemical symbolism in secondary school chemistry textbooks with a Systemic Functional Multimodal Discourse Analysis approach (SF-MDA). It is argued that chemical symbolism is far from a jargon or mere shorthand for language. Instead, it develops unique grammatical devices to realize sub-microscopic meaning and topological meaning, which outstrips the meaning potential of language. The current study also discusses how the SF-MDA approach could develop a visible pedagogy and improve chemistry education.


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