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Students who enroll for the special access course in physics at the University of Cape Town generally do not speak English as first language and have experienced poor science teaching. As a consequence students experience a large range of difficulties in trying to learn physics. We discuss research carried out in two such areas (a) understanding of measurement and (b) engagement with the textbook. With regard to (a) an overview of the methodology, analysis framework and findings of previous work will be presented together with more recent preliminary findings regarding audience dependence when conveying measurement results. With regard to (b) the idea of writing chapter summaries was used to guide students through the book with the aim that the textbook would come to be valued an accessible resource. Findings from the analysis of the student summaries are presented.
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