Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Integrating inquiry science and language development for English language learners - Stoddart (2002)

Stoddart, T., Pinal, A., Latzke, M., and Canaday, D. (2002). Integrating inquiry science and language development for English language learners. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(8):664-687.

The context for this study is Language Acquisition through Science Education in Rural Schools (LASERS), a National Science Foundation–funded Local Systemic Change project in central California that prepares experienced teachers to provide inquiry science instruction to Latino students learning English as a second language. The science–language integration rubric was developed to provide a conceptual framework for teacher staff development activities and to gauge changes in teachers’ beliefs and practice.

Research questions:
(a) How do teachers conceive of science language integration? and (b) What are the cognitive demands that underlie the development of teacher expertise in domain integration?

Interviews were conducted with 24 first- through sixth-grade teachers (21 female, 3 male) who participated in the LASERS summer school academy in 1998. The majority of the 24 teachers (19 of 24) had more than 3 years of teaching experience. The sample includes teachers with differing levels of participation in the LASERS project and a range of teaching experience. Therefore, they represent a range of perspectives on language-science integration.
The literature on curriculum domain integration, the development of expertise in teaching, and cognitive complexity are used as a framework for a rubric that describes science– language integration as a continuum from isolated domain-specific instruction to fully-integrated synergistic instruction with the emphasis on commonalties in structure and process across domains.

The view of integration presented in this article is based on Huntley’s definition of synergistic integration. Effective language instruction enhances the learning of science concepts, and effective science inquiry instruction enhances language development and promotes the development of higher-order thinking skills. This approach aligns with work on the integration of reading and writing with science instruction

In viewing the teaching of science and language as a synergistic process, we support the view of bilingual educators such as Cummins (1994) and Met (1994), who argue that the teaching of English and subject matter content should be so integrated that "all content teachers are also teachers of language" (Cummins, 1994, p. 42) and "view every content lesson as a language lesson" (Met, 1994, p. 161). There is currently little information available, however, on successful approaches to preparing teachers to teach inquiry science to second language learners (Lee & Fradd, 1998).

This evolution of teacher understanding could be characterized as a shift from "knowing that" to "knowing how" (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986; Kuhn, 1970; Polanyi, 1958). "Knowing that" understanding is characterized by a rule-governed, theoretical orientation, whereas "knowing how" is the flexible application of principles in practice.

Dreyfus framework: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, expert

The traditional approach to educating English language learners, which separates the teaching of language from the teaching of science content, presents an unnecessary obstacle to the academic progress of language minority students.

The findings of this report suggest the need to rethink staff development activities and science teacher education. The artificial and rigid distinctions between the role of science teacher and language teacher must be broken down.

The critical point is that language processes can be used to promote understanding of content across all subject matter domains, and that language use should be contextualized in authentic and concrete activity. In states such as California, where language minority students represent a significant percentage of the school-age population, methods of English language development should be integrated into all elementary and secondary subject matter methods classes and staff development programs. Integrated instruction will assist language minority students in mastering the English language and simultaneously improve their achievement in academic subjects.

Huntley, M.A. (1998). Design and implementation of a framework for defining integrated mathematics and science education. School Science and Mathematics, 98, 320–327.

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