The unforeseen shift to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic required instructors and students to face unprecedented learning challenges. Under these circumstances, Chinese international students who intended to come to the U.S. to begin their studies were required to remotely access their courses while still residing in China, which included a general chemistry laboratory course. Research suggests that English language learners (ELL) face a substantial language barrier in science-based courses as they must simultaneously be proficient in English as well as in the discipline-specific academic language; however, little is understood about how ELLs navigate these challenges in the context of a virtual chemistry laboratory course. This study examined the perceptions of Chinese international students about their learning as well as the tools/strategies they used to navigate the language barrier in the virtual laboratory course. Results suggest that although the participants perceived the virtual laboratory space as a safe and low-pressured environment to run experiments, they experienced difficulties in comprehending procedures adequately which potentially hindered them from developing a deeper understanding of the experiments. The types of strategies and tools that students used to navigate between their first language, the English language, and the academic language associated with chemistry mainly supported surface level learning. These findings underscore the need to identify and develop more sophisticated instructional strategies that help students navigate interlanguage spaces and reach higher levels of learning.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Chemistry (miscellaneous)