Precision: Toward a meaning-centered view of language use with English learners in the content areas

Scott E. Grapin, Lorena Llosa, Alison Haas, Marcelle Goggins, Okhee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To support English learners (ELs) in attaining rigorous content standards, U.S. federal legislation requires that English language proficiency (ELP) standards align with content standards. Whereas language use in content learning has traditionally been defined in terms of structure, content and language educators have devoted increased attention to precision. Precision goes beyond the structural elements of language to the disciplinary meaning that those elements communicate. In this article, we define precision and distinguish it from vocabulary, accuracy, and complexity. Then, we highlight divergent conceptions of precision in content standards and ELP standards. In light of these divergent conceptions, we present work samples from an elementary science classroom to illustrate how precision of disciplinary meaning is essential to engaging in disciplinary practices of content standards. We close by proposing the need for a more meaning-centered view of language use with ELs in the content areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-83
Number of pages13
JournalLinguistics and Education
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Content standards
  • English language proficiency standards
  • English learners
  • Language and content integration
  • Precision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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