- Year 2018
- NSF Noyce Award # 1439923
- First Name Julie
- Last Name Bianchini
- Discipline Other: Science and Mathematics Education
Sydni Baker, University of California, Santa Barbara, firstname.lastname@example.org
; Emily Carver, University of California, Santa Barbara, email@example.com
; Julie Bianchini, University of California, Santa Barbara, firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning to teach English learners (ELs) in content areas should be a priority for both beginning teachers and teacher educators, as the number of ELs in U.S. schools has increased 152% in the past 20 years. Indeed, across the U.S., over 11% of all students in K-12 settings are identified as ELs. To teach ELs effectively, beginning teachers must be able to recognize and use the diverse cultures, languages, and experiences of ELs as resources for instruction in their discipline. Offering methods courses that attend specifically to ELs, including EL-focused methods courses for preservice secondary science and mathematics teachers, is one way teacher education programs can attend to this pressing need.
We begin from the conviction that attending to the resources and needs of ELs is more complex than most of our preservice science and mathematics teachers (PSTs) envision. We see our approach as innovative in that it reflects calls to move beyond lists of uncoordinated EL scaffolds focused on the teaching of vocabulary to promote implementation of coherent, principle-based instruction centered at the discourse level of language. Here, we present four key principles of reform-based EL instruction and three dimensions of EL language support that informed both the larger secondary science and mathematics methods courses and the specific lesson development and reflection cycle. We describe how we integrated these key principles and dimensions into a model lesson implemented during the second week of the course that served to anchor subsequent lessons our PSTs developed, implemented, revised, and reflected upon.
To situate our courses and major assignment (the lesson development, implementation, and reflection cycle), we implemented an environmental science lesson on infiltration; this model lesson highlighted both our four key principles of effective EL instruction and three dimensions of EL language support. In the weeks after participating in this model lesson, PSTs followed a multi-step process to develop, implement, and reflect on their own lesson, using our four EL principles and three language dimensions as guides. Working with a partner, PSTs developed an initial lesson, interviewed an EL to test out part of this lesson, met with and received feedback from their instructor, tried out the lesson in the methods course, enacted the lesson in their placement, reflected on the lesson using student work, and participated in a final discussion of the lesson cycle process.
We think this assignment is innovative for two reasons. First, it helped PSTs maintain a focus on ELs throughout their methods course. While many methods courses might attend to ELs on a single day, our courses used a principle-based framework to organize instruction and types of support for ELs. Second, to further strengthen their instructional practice, we encouraged PSTs to use not only traditional supports for ELs (e.g., word walls and sentence frames), but other research-based practices as well, including groupwork and productive academic interactions, to elicit and build on students? language and literacy.
As the population of ELs continues to grow across the U.S., there is a clear need for all beginning science and mathematics teachers to be able to support ELs. In other words, as demographics continue to change, ELs are a student population that all teachers need to be prepared to attend to and engage in their instruction. To help PSTs learn to teach ELs effectively requires creating content methods courses that are systematically organized around principles and that focus specifically on how to meet ELs? needs. Here, we attempted to provide insight into what is needed for science and mathematics teacher educators going forward to better support their beginning teachers of ELs as well as examples of what this work might look like when implemented in methods courses. Additional research is needed to understand how teacher education programs overall should be structured to support PSTs in working with ELs ? so that all ELs have access to effective science and mathematics instruction.