Terrazas-Arellanes, F., Knox, C., & Rivas, C. (2013). Collaborative Online Projects for English Language Learners in Science. Cultural Studies of Science Education Journal, 3(8), DOI 10.1007/s11422-013-9521-8.
English Learners may struggle when learning science if their cultural and linguistic needs are unmet. The Collaborative Online Projects for English Language Learners in Science project was created to assist English learners’ construction of science knowledge, facilitate academic English acquisition, and improve science learning. The project is a freely available, online project-based, bilingual instructional web-site designed for English learners of Hispanic origin. The project website contains two units: Let’s Help Our Environment and What Your Body Needs. To create these collaborative online projects, two constructivist approaches were combined: The Cognitive-Affective Theory of Learning with Media and Project-Based Learning. These approaches to science education were used as the basis for culturally and linguistically relevant science instruction, which was delivered within a collabora-tive, online instructional platform. Using a case study design, two teachers demonstrated implementation of the project with fidelity, and students showed statistically significant gains in science content assessments. The Collaborative Online Projects for English Language Learners in Science project provides educators with a strong model for creating instructional materials that support English learners’ science learning by combining culturally-relevant, constructivist, collaborative projects using online, multimedia technology.
The Use of Pictorial Supports as an Accommodation for Increasing Access to Test Items for Students with Limited Proficiency in the Language of Testing
This paper reports on an NSF-funded project that examines vignette illustrations (VIs) as a form of testing accommodation for English language learners (ELLs)—students who are developing English as a second language yet they are tested in English, in major assessment programs in the U.S. VIs are pictorial supports intended to make the content
of test items more accessible to ELLs without altering their text and without giving away their answers. We have developed a procedure for systematically designing VIs. Based on semiotics, socio-cultural theory, and cognitive science, our procedure allows identification of both linguistic/cultural challenges—constituents (words, phrases, terms, idiomatic expressions) which may pose challenges to ELLs due to their limited English proficiency or their limited experience with certain contextual information)—and linguistic/cultural affordances (constituents that are not likely to pose these challenges to ELLs). Based on the identified linguistic and cultural challenges and affordances, illustration development teams composed by bilingual teachers, science teachers, and science content experts, write scripts that specify the characteristics that the illustrations should have. The paper discusses the procedure for developing VIs and discusses the potential of VIs as a valid, cost-effective, easy-to-implement testing accommodation in multilingual and multicultural contexts in which student language proficiency in the language of testing is a potential threat to test validity.
In this paper, we report on a study that compares state, national, and international assessment programs as to the characteristics and functions of the illustrations used in their science test items. We used our conceptual framework for examining the characteristics of illustrations in science items (Solano-Flores & Wang, 2009, 2011) to code the illustrations of samples of items. We examined the statistical significance of differences in the frequencies of different illustration variables observed in samples of science items from assessments from two countries (China and the U.S,) in four science areas, physics, chemistry, biology, and earth and space science. We observed statistically significant differences between the numbers of features in the illustrations originated in China and the illustrations originated in the U.S. Illustrations from China tended to have more varied and complex characteristics than their U.S. counterparts. We discuss the implications of these findings in the design of science items in assessment projects that involve culturally and linguistically diverse populations in both the U.S. and in the context of international test comparisons.