HomeLEAPS: Miriam College Faculty Research Journalvol. 32 no. 1 (2010)

Code-Switching: An Alternative Resource in Teaching Science and Math

Lourdes S. Abad

Discipline: Education, Education Administration



This descriptive analysis of teachers’ and students’ perceptions of code-switching during classroom instruction done through triangulation method reports that code-switching in Chemistry and Geometry is a resource in making knowledge more comprehensible to the students than when only English is used. This study conducted on two teachers and 32 3rd year high school respondents through survey questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussion and 220 minutes of class observations show that code-switching facilitates the successful negotiation of meaning of difficult texts coded in English and makes input comprehensible to the learners; creates a low-anxiety classroom atmosphere which is conducive to learning; and, keeps the students focused in class where lessons are highly technical in nature.


However, this study also argues that frequent code-switching in highly technical subjects can be detrimental to the learners because it can cause confusion in the students’ understanding of difficult concepts. This is further proof that if the English scientific concepts are not supported by everyday concepts which are usually in their mother tongue, the scientific concepts will not be well learned.


Moreover, this study highlights implications for the “English Only” policy for instruction that seems impractical and ineffective in countries where English is the second or foreign language. The findings present strong indications that code-switching by teachers should not be construed as incompetence or lacking in English proficiency because codeswitching is a bilingual speaker’s skill, not a disadvantage.