This is a large-scale, cross-sectional, and longitudinal study aimed at understanding and supporting the teaching of science and engineering practices and academic language development of middle and high school students (grades 7-10) with a special emphasis on English language learners (ELLs) and a focus on biotechnology.
This is a large-scale (4,000 students, 32 teachers, 5 classes per teacher per year); cross-sectional (four grade levels); and longitudinal (three years) study aimed at understanding and supporting the teaching of science and engineering practices and academic language development of middle and high school students (grades 7-10) with a special emphasis on English language learners (ELLs) and a focus on biotechnology. It builds on and extends the pedagogical model, professional development framework, and assessment instruments developed in a prior NSF-funded exploratory project with middle school teachers. The model is based on the research-supported notion that science and engineering practices and academic language practices are synergistic and should be taught simultaneously. It is framed around four key learning contexts: (a) a teacher professional learning institute; (b) rounds of classroom observations; (c) steps-to-college workshops for teachers, students, and families; and (d) teacher scoring sessions to analyze students' responses to assessment instruments.
The setting of this project consists of four purposefully selected middle schools and four high schools (six treatment and two control schools) in two Georgia school districts. The study employs a mixed-methods approach to answer three research questions: (1) Does increased teacher participation with the model and professional development over multiple years enhance the teachers' effectiveness in promoting growth in their students' understanding of scientific practices and use of academic language?; (2) Does increased student participation with the model over multiple years enhance their understanding of science practices and academic language?; and (3) Is science instruction informed by the pedagogical model more effective than regular instruction in promoting ELLs' understanding of science practices and academic language at all grade levels? Data gathering strategies include: (a) student-constructed response assessment of science and engineering practices; (b) student-constructed response assessment of academic language use; (c) teacher focus group interview protocol; (d) student-parent family interview protocol; (e) classroom observation protocol; (f) teacher pedagogical content knowledge assessment; and (g) teacher log of engagement with the pedagogical model. Quantitative data analysis to answer the first research question includes targeted sampling and longitudinal analysis of pretest and posttest scores. Longitudinal analysis is used to answer the second research question as well; whereas the third research question is addressed employing cross-sectional analysis. Qualitative data analysis includes coding of transcripts, thematic analysis, and pattern definition.
Outcomes are: (a) a research-based and field-tested prototype of a pedagogical model and professional learning framework to support the teaching of science and engineering practices to ELLs; (b) curriculum materials for middle and high school science teachers, students, and parents; (c) a teacher professional development handbook; and (d) a set of valid and reliable assessment instruments usable in similar learning environments.