English Language Learners

The Role of Educative Curriculum Materials in Supporting Science Teaching Practices with English Language Learners

This project aims to determine whether curricula designed to support teacher and student learning have positive impacts on teacher knowledge, attitudes, and instructional practices; to what degree educative curricula help teachers with more and less experience teaching ELLs and how level of teaching experience relates to teacher knowledge, attitudes, and instructional practices; and the effects of the educative curricula in high implementation settings on ELLs knowledge and attitudes in science, and developing English proficiency.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
0822119
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Jonna Kulikowich

Design and Use of Illustrations in Test Items as a Form of Accommodation for English Language Learners in Science and Mathematics Assessment

This project investigates how vignette illustrations minimize the impact of limited English proficiency on student performance in science tests. Different analyses will determine whether and how ELL and non-ELL students differ significantly on the ways they use vignettes to make sense of items; whether the use of vignettes reduces test-score differences due to language factors between ELL and non-ELL students; and whether the level of distance of the items moderates the effectiveness of vignette-illustrated items.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822362
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Sun, 08/12/2012
Full Description: 

This exploratory project within the Contextual Strand (Challenge a) addresses validity in the assessment of science and mathematics for English language learners (ELLs), and the urgent need for effective testing accommodations for ELLs. Motivation for this investigation originated from a previous, NSF-funded project on the testing of ELLs. We observed that items which were accompanied by illustrations tended to be responded correctly by a higher percentage of students than items without illustrations. We will investigate the factors that are relevant to designing and using a new form of accommodation in the assessment of science and mathematics for ELLs—vignette illustrations.

This three-year project will be guided by four research questions: What principles underlie the effective design of science and mathematics test items with illustrations in ways that minimize limited English proficiency as a factor that prevents ELLs from understanding the items? Is the presence of an illustration a moderator in students’ understanding test items? If so, Is the effect due to the simple presence of a graphical component or due to characteristics of the illustrations that are created based on principled design? Does the presence of an illustration have a different effect on the performance of ELLs and the performance of non-ELL students?

We expect to be able to: 1) identify the role of illustrations in the cognitive activities elicited by vignette-illustrated items; 2) determine whether any differences between performance on vignette-illustrated items and other kinds of items are due to the this form of accommodation’s capacity to address language as a construct-irrelevant factor; 3) identify the set of practical and methodological issues that are critical to properly developing and using vignette-illustrated items; and 4) propose a set of documents and procedures for the systematic and cost-effective design and development of vignette-illustrated items. 

We will test ELL and non-ELL students with items of three types (vignette-illustrated items whose illustrations are designed systematically, vignette-illustrated items whose illustrations are created arbitrarily, and items without illustrations) at two levels of distance to the enacted curriculum (close and distal). Diverse forms of analysis will allow us to determine whether and how ELL and non-ELL students differ on the ways in which they use vignettes to make sense of items, whether the use of vignettes reduces test score differences due to language factors between ELL and non-ELL students, and whether the level of distance of the items moderates the effectiveness of vignette-illustrated items.

Intellectual merit. This project will provide information that will help to advance our understanding in two assessment arenas: effective accommodations for ELLs, and item development practices. While illustrations are frequently used in test items, there is not guidance in the assessment development literature on how to approach illustrations. Furthermore, the value of illustrations as a resource for ensuring that ELL students understand what a given item is about and what the item asks them to do has not been systematically investigated. Semiotics, cognitive psychology, and linguistics and socio-cultural theory are brought together to develop systematic procedures for developing illustrations as visual supports in tests. Understanding the role that images play in test taking is relevant to devising more effective ways of testing students. While this project aims to improve testing accommodations practices for ELLs, knowledge gained from it will inform test development practices relevant to all student populations.

Broader impact. We expect outcomes of this project to contribute to enhanced practice in both classroom and large-scale assessment. The push for including ELLs in large-scale testing programs with accountability purposes is not corresponded by effective testing accommodation practices. Many testing accommodations used by national and state assessment programs are not defensible, are not effective, or are improperly implemented. Vignette illustrations have the potential to become a low-cost, easy-to-implement form of testing accommodation for ELLs. Results form this investigation will allow us to identify a set of principles for the proper design and use of vignette illustrations as a form of testing accommodation for ELLs. The project is important not only because it explores the potential of an innovative form of accommodation but because it uses a systematic procedure for designing that form of accommodation.

Effective Science Teaching for English Language Learners (ESTELL): A Preservice Teacher Professional Development Research Project Across Three Universities in California

Effective Science Teaching for English Language Learners (ESTELL): A Pre-Service Teacher Professional Development Research Project project is funded by the National Science Foundation DR-K-12 Discovery Research Program. The ESTELL project focuses on improving the science teaching and learning of K-6 linguistic minority students who are currently underserved in K-6 education through improving the pre-service education of elementary school teachers.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
0822402
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Michael Oliver
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 (DR-K12) proposal Effective Science Teaching for English Language Learners (ESTELL): A Pre-Service Teacher Professional Development Research Project Across Three Universities in California is submitted for consideration for a full research and development project in the Frontier Challenge Strand a ? assuring all students the opportunity to learn STEM content. Project investigators will conduct an experimental design study on the impact of an ESTELL elementary teacher education designed to prepare novice teachers to teach science to English Language Learner (ELL) and a qualitative study on program implementation. The ESTELL project builds on prior research in two areas: the integration of inquiry science, language and literacy practices; and the CREDE Five Standards for Effective Pedagogy which have identified a common set of teaching practices associated with increased achievement of ELL. This project will adapt this approach to pre-service teacher preparation. The ESTELL model of pre-service teacher education will be integrated into every stage of teacher preparation and induction from the science teaching methods courses in the post-baccalaureate credential programs, to the clinical setting of student teaching and the first two years of teaching. Researchers will focus on three research questions: (1) What is the impact of the ESTELL teacher education program on novice teachers beliefs and practice? (2) What is the relationship between the use of ESTELL by program graduates and the science achievement of 4th-5th grade students? and (3) What is the impact of the ESTELL program on the beliefs and practice of the participating science methods faculty, teacher supervisors and cooperating teachers?

Math Pathways and Pitfalls: Capturing What Works for Anytime Anyplace Professional Development

Math Pathways & Pitfalls lessons for students boost mathematics achievement for diverse students, including English Learners, English Proficient students, and Latino students. This project develops modules that increase teachers’ capacity to employ the effective and equitable principles of practice embodied by Math Pathways & Pitfalls and apply these practices to any mathematics lesson. This four-year project develops, field tests, and evaluates 10 online professional development modules.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918834
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

Researchers and developers at WestEd are developing, field-testing, and evaluating ten online professional development modules anchored in research-based teaching principles and achievement-boosting mathematics materials. The modules provide interactive learning opportunities featuring real classroom video demonstrations, simulations, and scaffolded implementation. The professional development module development builds on the Math Pathways and Pitfalls instructional modules for elementary and middle school students developed with NSF support. The professional development provided through the use of these modules is web-based (rather than face-to-face), is provided in chunks during the school year and immediately applied in the classroom (rather than summer professional development and school year application), and explicitly models ways to apply key teaching principles to regular mathematics lessons (rather than expecting teachers to extract and apply principles spontaneously).

The project studies the impact of the modules on teaching practice with an experimental design that involves 20 treatment teachers and 20 control teachers. Data are gathered from teacher questionnaires, classroom observations, and post-observation interviews.

Scaffolding Understanding by Redesigning Games for Education (SURGE)

This project is focusing on the redesign of popular commercial video games to support students’ understanding of Newtonian mechanics. In support of this goal, SURGE develops and implements design principles for game-based learning environments, integrating research on conceptual change, cognitive processing-based design, and socio-cognitive scripting. These enhanced games bridge the gap between student learning in non-formal game environments and the formalized knowledge structures learned in school by leveraging and integrating the strengths of each.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019170
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Wed, 03/31/2010

Closing the Math Achievement Gap for English Language Learners: Technology Resources for Pre-algebra

The project addresses the relatively poor mathematics achievement of students who are not proficient in English. It includes research on how English language learners in beginning algebra classes solve math word problems with different text characteristics. The results of this research inform the development of technology-based resources to support ELLs’ ability to learn mathematics through instruction in English, including tutorials in math vocabulary, integrated glossaries, and interactive assistance with forming equations from word problem text.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0903441
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/21/2008 to Sun, 07/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
RAND Education, Santa Monica CA

Investigating Equitable Discourse Practices in Mathematics Classrooms

This Discovery Research K-12 Conference project brought together 30 key scholars and practitioners in the areas of discourse and equity to synthesize and disseminate research findings concerning the implementation of culturally relevant teaching approaches that promote equitable discourse practices in mathematics classroom. The conference convened in Rochester, NY, in June 2008. Conference outcomes include publications that synthesize and disseminate best practices in relation to equitable discourses and a research agenda that further supports teachers' efforts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0711138
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2007 to Sat, 10/31/2009

Collaborative Online Projects for ELL Students (COPELLS)

This project is studying effects of linguistically sensitive science instructional materials by translating, enhancing, and evaluating culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate Collaborative Online Projects (originally written in Spanish) for middle school Spanish-speaking English Language Learners.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918832
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Kari Nelsestuen
Full Description: 

Project COPELLS is a research and development project implemented by University of Oregon's Center for Advanced Technology in Education (CATE) and the Instituto Latinamericano de la Communicacion Educativa (ILCE). ILCE is a division of the Department of Education in Mexico that designs relevant collaborative online projects (COPs) for students K through 12.

 

Project COPELLS has selected, translated, and enhanced culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate COPs designed by ILCE to teach science to middle school, Spanish-speaking, English Language Learners. These COPs were aligned to both National Science Education Standards and Oregon secondary science standards by Oregon State Department of Education Science Curriculum educators. In addition, they were enhanced with supportive resources (etext supports) that promote bilingual use of the materials and increase science literacy in both English and Spanish.

 

The Center for Advanced Technology in Education has research-based experience enriching online reading materials with content-specific multimedia supports designed to scaffold text comprehension and content learning for struggling students. Specific etext supports identified as potentially useful for this population include: alternative text, audio, and video definitions of terms, translations, and enhanced illustrations that become available only when clicked to open by the reader.

 

The project's two major goals are to (a) facilitate and improve science content-area learning for Spanish-speaking ELL students and (b) facilitate their acquisition of Academic English while learning science content. Feasibility and usability of the Collaborative Online Projects is being classroom tested. The project is gathering information on the impact of the bilingual online science materials for improving science content-area learning, student attitude toward scientific learning, student and teacher satisfaction, and science academic language proficiency (ALP) of ELL students.

 

Key people:
Dr. Carolyn Knox, Principal Investigator
Dr. Kenneth Doxsee, Co-Principal Investigator
Dr. Fatima Terrazas-Arellanes, Co-Principal Investigador
Dr. Patricia Cabrera Muñoz, ILCE Partner

Ecology Disrupted: Using Museum-based Science and Educational Technology to Link Real World Environmental Issues to Basic Ecological Principles

This project uses media such as Science Bulletin Snapshots to engage students with current research and to foster scientific understanding and civic engagement. Through environmental case studies, students learn to develop hypotheses, analyze scientific data, and make conclusions. To address the objectives, the project will create inquiry-based case studies to situate several central ecological principles, as determined by national and state standards, into the context of environmental issues.

Award Number: 
0733269
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Mon, 08/31/2009
Full Description: 

Our project asks whether media-rich curriculum materials that immerse middle school students in real, current scientific research can improve students' understanding of science content, and their understanding and appreciation of science as a way to learn about the natural world.  We are using Science Bulletins, digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City to develop middle and high school case study units on contemporary issues in ecology for students underserved in their connection to nature. We developed two problem-based modules that use current scientific data to link ecological principles to real-world environmental issues. Each unit is constructed around a question linking the ecological topic with human daily life. One unit asks the question, 'How do snowy and icy roads put the Baltimore area's water supply at risk?' The other asks the question, 'How does being able to drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in under five hours put the bighorn sheep at risk?' The students must use source material to develop hypotheses to address these questions. They then analyze real data to test their hypotheses. Finally, they watch and analyze Museum media to connect the questions that they investigated to broader ecological principles and issues. Additionally, students are asked at the beginning and the end of these units to self-assess their understanding of the science content, the nature of scientific inquiry, and their place in the natural world.

Supporting Grade 5-8 Students in Writing Scientific Explanations

This project is writing and researching a book supporting grade 5-8 students in scientific explanations and arguments. The book provides written and video examples from a variety of contexts in terms of content and diversity of students. The book and accompanying facilitator materials also provide different teacher instructional strategies for supporting students. The research focuses on how the book and accompanying professional development impact teachers' beliefs, pedagogical content knowledge and classroom practice.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0836099
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/15/2008 to Sun, 07/31/2011
Full Description: 

 This SGER grant proposes the development of a book and a research study to investigate the impact of that book and accompanying professional development on teachers’ beliefs and classroom practices to support grade 5-8 students in writing scientific explanations.  The project will expand the current body of research around teachers’ beliefs and professional development for scientific explanation and argumentation as well as provide a valuable resource that includes examples of student writing and video cases from diverse learners that can be used by science educators and teachers across the country.

 

Intellectual Merit

The recent National Research Council publication Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades k-8 (Duschl, Schweingruber & Shouse, 2006) offers a new vision for proficiency in science, which includes a focus that students be able to “Generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanation” (p.2).  Although this focus on evidence based scientific explanations is prevalent in the current research literature, there are few concrete examples of what this scientific inquiry practice looks like when it is successfully supported in classrooms. We propose to develop a teacher book and accompanying professional development facilitator materials that will help transform how science is being taught in this country.  The book will provide concrete examples in both student written work and video of the current theoretical ideas being advocated in the science education field. By providing this image, the knowledge in the field will be advanced by transforming a theoretical idea and illustrating what it looks like in actual classroom practice that can be used by teachers as well as in teacher preparation and professional development.  The examples will include a variety of different contexts in terms of different content areas, grades 5-8, and students with a variety of backgrounds including diverse students from urban schools.  Furthermore, we propose to research the impact of the book and accompanying professional development on teachers’ beliefs and classroom practice around scientific explanation.  The majority of recent work in the field of scientific explanation and argumentation has focused on curriculum materials, technology tools, and classroom practice. There is currently little research around teacher education and professional development to support teachers in incorporating scientific explanation and argumentation in their classrooms (Zohar, 2008). Consequently, the results from this study will be essential to inform the field about teachers’ beliefs around scientific explanation, how professional development can change those beliefs, and the subsequent impact on teachers’ classroom practices.

 

Broader Impacts

The use of the book by teachers, professional development leaders and teacher educators will have a significant impact on middle school students’ learning throughout the country.  Through the distribution and use of the book, teachers will have access to resources that will help them incorporate scientific explanations in their own classroom practice.  As our previous research has shown (McNeill & Krajcik, 2007; McNeill & Krajcik, 2008a; McNeill, Lizotte, Krajcik & Marx, 2006), using our framework and instructional strategies for scientific explanation can improve diverse students’ ability to write scientific explanations as well as learn key science concepts.  A large percentage of our research has been conducted with urban students including minority students and students from low income families who have not traditionally succeeded in science. Focusing on science as a discourse with distinct language forms and ways of knowing, such as analyzing data and communicating scientific explanations can help language-minority students learn to think and talk scientifically (Rosebery, et al., 1992).  This book will allow the strategies we have found to be successful with diverse students to reach a much larger audience allowing more middle school students to succeed in science. Providing teachers with strategies and examples of how those strategies have been successfully used in real classrooms will help them implement similar practices in their own classrooms and will help more students successfully write evidence based scientific explanations.  The research study around the impact of the book and accompanying professional development will reach twenty-five teachers and their students in the Boston Public School schools which serve primarily low-income (71% eligible to receive free or reduced lunch) inner city students from minority backgrounds.  The publication of the book with Pearson Allyn & Bacon will have the potential of reaching numerous more teachers and their students across the country.

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