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Summary

This large-scale project involves 4,000 students and 50 teachers per year across 10 schools. Over three years and five grade levels, the Language-Rich Inquiry Science with English Language Learners through Biotechnology project will study and support the teaching of the language used for scientific investigation in middle and high school students, with a special emphasis on English language learners and biotechnology.

The project builds on and extends the pedagogical model, professional learning framework, and assessment instruments developed in the prior NSF-funded LISELL exploratory project with middle school teachers. The primary goal of this project is to test instructional strategies to prompt students' science talk, writing and action. This skill is especially crucial for English learners to meet the challenges of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core.

Abstract

Language-Rich Inquiry Science with English Language Learners through Biotechnology (LISELL-B) is a National Science Foundation supported project to implement a large-scale (4,000 students, 50 teachers per year, 8 implementation schools and 2 comparison schools); cross-sectional (five grade levels); and longitudinal (three years) study to understand and support the teaching of the language of scientific investigation practices for middle and high school students (grades 6-10) with a special emphasis on English language learners (ELLs) and a focus on biotechnology. The project builds on and extends the pedagogical model, professional learning framework, and assessment instruments developed in the prior NSF-funded LISELL exploratory project with middle school teachers.

The primary goal of the project is to co-construct and test with teachers the instructional and assessment strategies needed to prompt students' science talk, writing and action in ways that support development of the language of scientific investigation practices. Taking ownership of these language practices is necessary for all students but is especially crucial for English learners to meet the challenges of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core. Secondary goals include supporting family engagement in doing and learning about science together and promoting college and career readiness with a STEM focus for adolescent English learners both within and beyond school science classrooms.

Rationale

The rationale for this project emerges from conceptualizing the expanding cultural and linguistic diversity of the US student population as synergistic with the emerging framework and standards for science teaching (NRC, 2011), linguistic challenges embedded in these frameworks (Lee, Quinn & Valdés, 2012), and the need for students to develop career-ready skills for the 21st century (CCSSO, 2012). We argue that developing a better understanding of how teachers can support all their students, and especially their English learners, in gaining proficiency with science and engineering practices and with the academic language of science will be essential for ensuring that the next generation of US students attains academic success and college and career readiness. More specifically, the push for increased academic performance and high standards for all students in science education has been primarily driven by four factors that each require consideration of the specific needs and resources that English learners bring to school: Recognition of increasing cultural and linguistic diversity of the US student population, Persistent gaps in testing and high school graduation rates among demographic subgroups and increased accountability, cognitive and linguistic demands of the Next Generation Science Standards, and evolving personal and social reasons for all students to learn challenging science.

Research Questions

In the LISELL-B project, we are attempting to answer the following research questions:

Research question 1: Does increased teacher engagement in the LISELL-B professional learning framework, increased teacher enactment of the LISELL-B pedagogical model in their classrooms, and increased teacher pedagogical content knowledge over multiple years lead to increased change scores for LISELL-B teachers' students? (longitudinal analysis of teacher growth)

Research question 2: Does increased student participation with the LISELL-B pedagogical model over multiple years lead to increased abilities for all students, and especially for English learners, to express their understanding of science and engineering practices and to take ownership of the language of science? (longitudinal analysis of student growth)

Research question 3: Is science instruction enacting the LISELL-B pedagogical model as developed through engagement in the LISELL-B professional learning framework significantly better than using "business as usual" teaching methods for English learner at different grade levels across the middle school to high school transition? (cross-sectional analysis of student performance in a given year)

In addition to these overarching research questions, we explore a range of other questions to better understand the contexts and the policies in which this work takes place, and the participants with whom we interact and learn together.

Pedagogical Model

The LISELL-B Pedagogical Model for developing the language of scientific Investigation practices includes:

Coordinating hypothesis, observation and evidence – The language used to generate testable hypotheses, to select and make appropriate observations, and to determine which observations can best serve as evidence to either support or refute the hypothesis.

Controlling variables to design a fair test – The language used to describe the role of manipulating one variable, determining the effect of this manipulation on another variable, and attempting to control any other possible variables that could affect the process or outcome of the experiment in order to design a fair test.

Explaining cause and effect relationships – The language used to describe cause and effect relationships during scientific explanation; how one event, the cause, brings about another event, the effect, through some mechanism or process.

Using models to explain concepts and test designs –Models of scientific understanding come in many forms, including diagrammatic, computational, mathematical & conceptual. Developing one's own models and the language of modeling can support both the conceptual and linguistic growth of students' scientific thinking.

Using general academic vocabulary in context - General-purpose academic vocabulary is common in written academic texts, assessments, standards and teacher talk, but is rare in most students' oral, conversational language. Practice using this vocabulary in meaningful context supports comprehension of content-specific texts in science.

Owning the language of science – Students must learn to take ownership of the language structures and patterns that are unique to science. These language patterns have developed for useful reasons – to support the communication of scientific thinking – but also tend to confuse students and make science seem complex and inaccessible

LISELL-B professional learning framework

The LISELL-B professional learning framework consists of five professional learning contexts that each support the LISELL-B pedagogical model in distinct ways.

  1. Summer teacher institute - An annual four-day summer workshop serves as a setting for introducing and negotiating common understandings of the LISELL pedagogical model and for co-developing aspects of the model and classroom materials to support model enactment.
  2. Student biotechnology academy – An annual two-week summer academic camp for students, held immediately after the teacher institute, is co-taught by project teachers and LISELL staff. The academy provides teachers with a "low stakes" space to practice implementing aspects of the pedagogical model with students.
  3. "Grand rounds" classroom observations - All project teachers in a given school are invited to observe a focal teacher's lesson along with project staff and then debrief the lesson together to highlight how the teacher took ownership of one or more LISELL practices.
  4. Bilingual "Steps to college through science" family workshops - Teachers, students and family members take part in a series of Saturday workshops in which participants rotate through activities that: model how to integrate the LISELL pedagogical practices through science investigations; explore academic language and academic success in high school and post-secondary education; and share information and activities regarding science careers, learning opportunities, and skills development.
  5. Teacher exploration of students' writing workshops –Teachers examine samples of their students' responses on the LISELL constructed response assessment as well as other writing samples to reflect on how their students – both native English speakers and bilingual learners – make and express scientific meaning through their written responses.

LISELL-B research instruments

LISELL-B research instruments include:

Student constructed response assessment of academic language use – All students in participating teachers' science classes take this assessment at the start and end of each school year. Items ask students to use selected general academic vocabulary words in meaningful contexts, such as in a letter describing a community problem or a paragraph describing a new invention.

Classroom observation protocol – The grand rounds classroom observation protocol consists of a pre-observation form, an observation guide that is completed by all observers during the lesson, and a post-observation guide to frame the debrief session that follows the observed lesson. The focus of the observation is on enactment of the LISELL pedagogical model.

Teacher log of pedagogical model enactment – All participating teachers are asked to complete a short on-line form every two weeks, in which teachers document their use of the various LISELL-B pedagogical practices. Teachers describe the activities they did and the standards they addressed while engaging in the LISELL practices.

Teacher science notebooks – To track teachers' developing pedagogical content knowledge over time, teachers keep a science notebook in which they reflect on what they are learning about the teaching of science and language practices in each of the LISELL professional learning contexts.

Teacher focus group interview protocol – Teachers in the summer institute are asked to discuss their understanding and enactment of the LISELL-B science and academic language practices, to reflect on the value of their engagement in each component of the LISELL-B professional learning framework, and to discuss the policy contexts in their schools that influence their teaching.

Student-parent family interview protocol – Parent and student participants in the family workshops are asked to interview each other about a range of topics, including their past experiences with science, their knowledge about higher education and career opportunities, and their thoughts about obstacles and resources related to their academic success.

Sponsorship

National Science Foundation
$3

Principal Investigator

Cory A. Buxton
UGA Athletic Association Professor of Education
Educational Theory and Practice

Co-PIs

  • Martha Allexsaht-Snider
  • Allan Cohen
  • Laura Lu

Active Since

August 2013