CAREER: Developing Elementary Preservice Teachers' Understandings and Abilities to Support Emerging Bilingual Students Scientific Sensemaking

This project will study ways to improve classroom instruction grounded in science practices to address inequities in science education for emerging bilingual students. The project will create research-based resources for teacher educators that focus on developing preservice elementary teachers' understanding and abilities to support emerging bilingual students' engagement in science practices.

Full Description: 

This project will study ways to improve classroom instruction grounded in science practices to address inequities in science education for emerging bilingual students. Currently, many elementary school teachers are unfamiliar with science practices and are unprepared to teach emerging bilingual students since they never received training in either area. This project will address this lack of training and create research-based resources for teacher educators that focus on developing preservice elementary teachers' understanding and abilities to support emerging bilingual students' engagement in science practices. The study will be guided by the following objectives, which are to research: (1) the understandings of exemplary elementary teachers around science, language, and emerging bilingual students, and the relationship between these understandings and their instructional practices for supporting student sensemaking; (2) preservice teachers' understandings and practices related to supporting emerging bilingual students' sensemaking; (3) the development of an elementary science methods course, and educator resources, that support teacher learning about the role of language in science practices and approaches for supporting emerging bilingual students' sensemaking; and (4) the impact of this course, and its teacher educator resources, on preservice teachers' understandings and instructional practices. With little prior research having looked at the intersection of science and language learning, this project will advance knowledge in this regard.

Through a mixed-methods design, this project will investigate interrelated aspects of teacher understandings, teacher practice, and teacher learning around supporting emerging bilingual students' scientific sensemaking. Phase 1 of the project includes examining the instructional approaches around science practices of exemplary elementary school teachers that work in different types of school contexts with emerging bilingual students. Such strategies will go beyond traditional subject-matter knowledge and skills to include teacher encouragement of students using linguistic and nonlinguistic modes for communicating ideas; development of a deeper understanding of natural scientific phenomena; and engagement with and valuing of students' families, communities, and lived experiences. These combined efforts will capture and illustrate compelling examples of possible instantiations of engagement in science practices while being mindful of and responsive to emerging bilingual students' language assets, needs, and English development. Findings from Phase 1 will be used for Phase 2 of this project, which focuses on iteratively designing and analyzing a science methods course and resources for preservice teachers' pedagogical development across science and language learning.

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