One potato, two potato, three potato, four: the use of Hot Potatoes software in science language comprehension


  • Alice Richardson
  • Brett A. Lidbury
  • Felicia Zhang


Our paper concentrates on innovation in teaching two ‘hard’ sciences, namely Genetics and Statistics. Reform in the teaching of Statistics moved through the higher education sector in Australia in the 1990s. Emphasis was placed on statistical thinking and active learning rather than recipes and derivations. New-style textbooks and laboratory manuals were published that employed teaching techniques from a variety of disciplines, but not from language teaching. Teaching in Genetics, generally, is in a transmissive style and as the language of Genetics is as foreign as a foreign language, texts written become inaccessible to many students. An earlier study (Zhang and Lidbury 2006) has examined a range of language techniques in the teaching of tertiary Genetics and Molecular Biology, and has recently focussed on language learning via the Hot Potatoes software. For this original study, Hot Potatoes was used as one of a suite of language-centred teaching approaches, so its full value has not, thus far, been individually assessed. Anecdotally, Hot Potatoes was a great tool to revise genetic language from previous lectures, and was appreciated by motivated students who wished to explore extra voluntary online exercises, or use the Hot Potatoes exercises as study tools. This study in Statistics will focus primarily on Hot Potatoes and assess it as a tool through which to teach statistical language.