English Language Learners

Project AIM: All Included in Mathematics

This project will adapt and study successful discourse strategies used during language arts instruction to help teachers promote mathematically-rich classroom discourse. Of special interest is the use of models to promote mathematics communication that includes English language learners (ELL) in mathematics discourse.The project will result in a full 40-hour professional development module to support mathematics discourse for Grade 2 teachers, with an emphasis on place value, multidigit addition and subtraction, and linear measurement.

Award Number: 
1020177
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2010 to Fri, 07/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
Judy Storeygard, TERC
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at North Carolina State University and Horizon Research, Inc. are adapting and studying successful discourse strategies used during language arts instruction to help teachers promote mathematically-rich classroom discourse. Of special interest to the project is the use of models to promote mathematics communication that includes English language learners (ELL) in mathematics discourse.

The project is conceived as a design experiment that includes successive instructional engineering cycles in which the R&D team designs professional learning tasks, implements the tasks with teachers, and revises the tasks and their sequencing to better support the desired learning outcomes. The members of the project team then examine the effects of the PD on teachers' instruction and the possibilities for scaling up the materials across PD facilitators, grade levels, and curriculum materials. The overarching research questions guiding the research and development effort proposed in this project are: How do generalist elementary teachers learn to promote high quality mathematics discourse that includes all students in their classrooms and engages those students in meaningful mathematics learning opportunities? How do we scale up an intervention designed to support elementary teacher learning of ways to promote high quality mathematics discourse in their classrooms?

The project will result in a full 40-hour professional development module to support mathematics discourse for Grade 2 teachers, with an emphasis on place value, multidigit addition and subtraction, and linear measurement. The main professional learning tasks of the program will have been piloted and studied in a series of sessions with mathematics coaches and teachers.

Language-Rich Inquiry Science with English Language Learners (LISELL)

This exploratory study develops and pilot-tests a model for improving science teaching and learning with middle school ELLs. Study goals include: (1) clarifying pedagogical constructs of language-rich science inquiry and the academic language of science and their relationships across the learning contexts of middle school science classrooms, teacher professional development and family science workshops, (2) developing and refining instruments to study these constructs in context, and (3) conducting pilot tests of the model and instruments.

Award Number: 
1019236
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Wed, 07/31/2013
Full Description: 

This exploratory study develops, pilot-tests, and refines a model for improving middle school English Language Learners' (ELLs) science learning. The model incorporates two pedagogical constructs (language-rich science inquiry and academic language development); and three learning settings (teacher professional development workshops, middle school science classrooms, and parent-student-teacher science workshops). The specific objectives of the study are: (1) to clarify the two pedagogical constructs and their relationships across the three learning contexts, (2) to develop and refine instruments that will be useful for the study of these constructs in these learning contexts, and (3) to conduct pilot tests of the model and instruments.

The study's development phase consists of the production, adaptation, and pilot testing of instructional strategies for teachers and learning materials for students. Instructional strategies for teachers are centered on three key inquiry practices: (a) coordinating theory and evidence, (b) controlling variables, and (c) cause and effect reasoning across 6th grade earth science, 7th grade life science, and 8th grade physical science. Learning materials for students consist of lessons in a workbook with units highlighting the study of academic language. Also, this phase of the study includes the development of resources to support parents' participation and measurement instruments to gather data during the research phase of the study.

The research phase of the study consists of pilot testing of the model. Two research questions guide the study: (1 What is the value for ELL students, their teachers and their parents of an instructional model that highlights language-rich science inquiry practices and academic language development strategies?; and (2)What is the value for ELL students, their teachers and their parents of an instructional model that is enacted in the contexts of middle school science classrooms, student-parent-teacher science workshops, and teacher professional development workshops? Assuming a quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest design, a power analysis defined a sample size of 1,000 middle school students (800 for the treatment group, and 200 for the control group) in 40 classrooms of three middle schools in the state of Georgia. A total of 12 teachers (8 science teachers and 2 English for Students of Other Languages teachers) were selected using a targeted strategy; and 40 randomly selected parents constitute the remaining population sample. The intervention consists of the use of teacher instructional strategies focused on exploring and elaborating cause-effect relationships, differentiating between evidence and theory, and identifying and controlling variables; students' use of instructional materials on academic language; and exploration of parents' science funds of knowledge. Data gathering strategies employ five instruments: (a) a teacher-focus-group interview protocol, (b) a teacher observation protocol, (c) a parent-student interview protocol, (d) a student academic language writing test, and (e) a student-constructed-response science inquiry test. Data interpretation strategies include qualitative analysis using narrative and semantic structure analysis and statistical analyses. An advisory board and an evaluator conduct the evaluation component of the study, inclusive of formative and summative aspects.

The outcome of this study is a research-informed and field-tested science instructional model focused on the improved learning of ELLs and a set of valid and reliable measuring instruments.

Expanding PhET Interactive Science Simulations to Grades 4-8: A Research-Based Approach

Colorado’s PhET project and Stanford’s AAALab will develop and study learning from interactive simulations designed for middle school science classrooms. Products will include 35 interactive sims with related support materials freely available from the PhET website; new technologies to collect real-time data on student use of sims; and guidelines for the development and use of sims for this age population. The team will also publish research on how students learn from sims.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020362
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Stephanie Chasteen
Full Description: 

In this DRK12 project, the PhET Interactive Simulations group at the University of Colorado and the AAALab at Stanford University are working together to produce and study learning from interactive simulations designed for middle school science classrooms. We are developing a suite of 35 high-quality, interactive simulations covering physical science topics. These simulations include innovative technologies that provide teachers with real-time, formative feedback on how their students are using the simulations.  The research investigates how various characteristics of the simulation design influence student engagement and learning, and how this response varies across grade-level and diverse populations. The research also includes an investigation of different ways of using simulations in class, and how these approaches affect student preparation for future learning when they are no longer using a given simulation.

      The original PhET simulations were designed for college use, but overtime, they have migrated to lower grades.  The current suite of free research-based, interactive PhET science simulations are used over 10 million times per year.  To optimize their utility for middle school science, we are conducting interviews with diverse 4-8th graders using 25 existing PhET simulations to help identify successful design alternatives where needed, and to formulate generalized design guidelines. In parallel, pull-out and classroom-based studies are investigating a variety of lesson plans to identify the most promising approach. These studies include controlled comparisons that collect both qualitative and quantitative data.

      On the basis of our emerging design principles, we are developing 10 new simulations in consultation with teachers, who are helping to identify high need areas for simulations. These new simulations also include a back-end data collection capability that can collect, aggregate, and display student patterns of simulation use for teachers and researchers. The design of the data collection and presentation formats depends on an iterative process done in collaboration with teachers to identify the most useful information and display formats. A final evaluation compares student learning with and without this back-end formative assessment technology.   

This project is working to transform the way science is taught and learned in Grades 4-8 so that it is more effective at promoting scientific thinking and content learning, while also being engaging to diverse populations. The project is expected to impact many, many thousands of teachers and students through its production of a suite of 35 free, interactive science simulations optimized for Grades 4-8 along with “activity templates”, guidance, and real time feedback to teachers to support pedagogically effective integration into classrooms. Finally, the intellectual merit of the project is its significant contributions to understanding when, how, and why interactive simulations can be effective learning and research tools.

CAREER: Supporting Middle School Students' Construction of Evidence-Based Arguments

Doing science requires that students learn to create evidence-based arguments (EBAs), defined as claims connected to supporting evidence via premises. In this CAREER project, I investigate how argumentation ability can be enhanced among middle school students. The project entails theoretical work, instructional design, and empirical work, and involves 3 middle schools in northern Utah and southern Idaho.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0953046
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Fri, 07/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
David Williams
Full Description: 

Doing science requires that students learn to create evidence-based arguments (EBAs), defined as claims connected to supporting evidence via premises. The question chosen for study by a new researcher at Utah State University is: How can argumentation ability be enhanced among middle school students? This study involves 325 middle school students in 12 class sections from 3 school districts in Utah and Idaho. First, students in middle school science classrooms will be introduced to problem-based learning (PBL) units that allow them to investigate ill-structured science problems. These activities provide students with something about which to argue: something that they have explored personally and with which they have grappled. Next, they will construct arguments using a powerful computer technology, the Connection Log, developed by the PI. The Connection Log provides a scaffold for building arguments, allowing each student to write about his/her reasoning and compare it to arguments built by peers. The study investigates how the Connection Log improves the quality of students' arguments. It also explores whether students are able to transfer what they have learned to new situations that call for argumentation.

This study is set in 6th and 7th grade science classrooms with students of diverse SES, ethnicity, and achievement levels. The Connection Log software supports middle school students with written prompts on a computer screen that take students through the construction of an argument. The system allows students to share their arguments with other members of their PBL group. The first generation version of the Connection Log asks students to:

1. define the problem, or state the problem in their own words

2. determine needed information, or decide on evidence they need to find to solve the problem

3. find and organize needed information

4. develop a claim, or make an assertion stating a possible problem solution

5. link evidence to claim, linking specific, relevant data to assertions

The model will be optimized through a process of design-based research. The study uses a mixed methods research design employing argument evaluation tests, video, interviews, database information, debate ratings, and a mental models measure, to evaluate student progress.

This study is important because research has shown that students do not automatically come to school prepared to create evidence-based arguments. Middle school students face three major challenges in argumentation: adequately representing the central problem of the unit; determining and obtaining the most relevant evidence; and synthesizing gathered information to construct a sound argument. Argumentation ability is crucial to STEM performance and to access to STEM careers. Without the ability to formulate arguments based upon evidence, middle school students are likely to be left out of the STEM pipeline, avoid STEM careers, and have less ability to critically evaluate and understand scientific findings as citizens. By testing and refining the Connection Log, the project has the potential for scaling up for use in science classrooms (and beyond) throughout the United States.

CAREER: A Study of Strategies and Social Processes That Facilitate the Participation of Latino English Language Learners in Elementary Mathematics Classroom Communities

The project aims to: (1) study resources and strategies for teachers that will facilitate participation of 3rd grade Latino English Language Learners (ELLs) in the mathematics classrooms; (2) develop related teacher professional development (PD) materials; and (3) integrate research and teaching activities. The basic research question is: How can 3rd grade teachers facilitate better mathematics instruction for ELLs?

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0844556
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2009 to Mon, 06/30/2014
Full Description: 

The project aims to: (1) study resources and strategies for teachers that will facilitate participation of 3rd grade Latino English Language Learners (ELLs) in the mathematics classrooms; (2) develop related teacher professional development (PD) materials; and (3) integrate research and teaching activities. The basic research question is: How can 3rd grade teachers facilitate better mathematics instruction for ELLs? The PI will conduct a longitudinal study with teachers over three years in nine third-grade classrooms involving 20 Latino ELLs in each classroom. Data (district-administered assessments, one-on-one formal interviews, classroom artifacts, brief conversations with children following the videotaped lessons) will be collected from multiple sources including the use of head-mounted cameras to videotape classroom social processes. Also, existing research base and data from the nine classrooms will be used to develop, test, and publish PD materials for pre-service and practicing elementary teachers. The integrated education activities will have a direct impact on the design of University of Missouri Teacher Development Program, Masters Programs, TESOL Certification Program, and Mathematics Education Doctoral Program as well as local schools. The proposed project is qualitative. Teachers will also participate in a three-year professional development on ELL strategies and use classroom activities in the fall semester that are designed to assist 3rd grade Latinos acquire mathematical competence on various aspects of the number sense strand of the mathematics curriculum. All the relevant instruments will be collected and analyzed. Findings from the proposed research and integrated research/education activities will expand the knowledge base in the fields of elementary mathematics education and multilingual education.

The project research and education activities will inform our understanding of effective strategies in mathematics classrooms that will influence learning processes and ultimately student outcomes relevant to Latino ELLs and potentially other groups of underrepresented students. Findings from the project will promote effective teaching and learning of mathematics at the elementary level and will be broadly disseminated to students, teachers, teacher educators, and education researchers throughout the U.S. The PI will create a vehicle (i.e., PD materials) for U.S. elementary teachers to discuss critical issues related to engaging a group of students that have typically been non-participants in mathematics classrooms and potentially facilitate more effective participation for this growing population.

Math Snacks: Addressing Gaps in Conceptual Mathematics Understanding with Innovative Media

This project is developing and evaluating effectiveness of 15 - 20 short computer mediated animations and games that are designed to: (1) increase students' conceptual understanding in especially problematic topics of middle grades mathematics; and (2) increase students' mathematics process skills with a focus on capabilities to think and talk mathematically.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918794
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Sheila Cassidy WEXFORD INC.
Full Description: 

View a project spotlight on Math Snacks.

This project Math Snacks: Addressing Gaps in Conceptual Mathematics Understanding with Innovative Media, led by mathematics and education faculty at New Mexico State University, is developing and evaluating effectiveness of 15 - 20 short computer mediated animations and games that are designed to: (1) increase students' conceptual understanding in especially problematic topics of middle grades mathematics; and (2) increase students' mathematics process skills with a focus on problem-solviing and communicating mathematically. The basic research question for this project is whether the planned collection of computer-mediated animations and games can provide an effective strategy for helping students learn core middle grades mathematics concepts in conceptual areas that research suggests are difficult for these students.  A second question relates to types of delivery that are effective for mathematics learning using these tools including in classrooms during extended learning time at home or in informal educational settings. The project is developing and testing the effectiveness of a set of such learning tools and companion print materials, including student and teacher guides, and short video clips documenting best practices by  teachers using the developed materials with students. A pilot study in year 3 and a substantial randomized control trial in year 4 will test the effects of using the Math Snacks web-based and mobile technologies on student learning and retention of identified core middle school mathematics concepts, as measured by performance on disaggregated strands of the New Mexico state standardized mathematics assessments. Thus the project will produce animations and games using the web and new mobile technologies, and useful empirical evidence about the efficacy of their use. One of the key features of the Math Snacks project is development of the mediated games and simulations in a form that can be used by students outside of normal classroom settings on media and game players that are ubiquitous and popular among today's young people. Thus the project holds the promise of exploiting learning in informal settings to enhance traditional school experiences.

International Workshop on Mathematics and Science Education: Common Priorities that Promote Collaborative Research

The goal of this workshop is to advance the construction of new knowledge through international cooperation with Chinese counterparts in the teaching and learning of math and science at the elementary level in four areas: curriculum design and assessment; teacher preparation and professional development; effective use of the former; and reaching gifted and underserved populations. Approximately 120 people will attend, including 50 senior U.S. researchers, 25 early career researchers, 15 graduate students and 5 undergraduates.

Award Number: 
0751664
Funding Period: 
Sat, 03/15/2008 to Mon, 02/28/2011

Scaling Up Mathematics Achievement (SUMA)

This project aims to (1) investigate whether or not it is possible to successfully scale-up and adapt the Capacity Building Systems Model used in the Gadsden Mathematics Initiative and improve mathematics achievement for all students in a larger school district, and (2) replicate success in broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in entering STEM field by closing the achievement gap and raising the achievement level of underrepresented students in mathematics.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733690
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
Cori Groth and Cheryl Harris

A Longitudinal Randomized Trial Study of Middle School Science for English Language Learners (Project MSSELL) (Collaborative Research: Irby)

Project MSSELL will conduct a two-year randomized trial longitudinal evaluation of an enhanced standards-based science curriculum model. In Year 1, the project will refine and pilot the model based on learnings from its previous developmental phase and implementation with K-3 grade students. In Years 2 and 3, the enhanced model will be implemented and studied with fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822153
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. David Frances

A Longitudinal Randomized Trial Study of Middle School Science for English Language Learners (Project MSSELL) (Collaborative Research: Lara-Alecio)

This project seeks to improve the science achievement and the academic English language proficiency of middle school Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs). This project will conduct a randomized trial longitudinal evaluation of an enhanced standards-based science curriculum model, consisting of five major components: (a) English language acquisition strategies integrated into the science curriculum, (b) technology-assisted instruction, (c) bi-weekly teacher professional development, (d) family involvement, and (e) paraprofessionals in working with individual ELLs.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822343
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. David Frances

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