- Year 2019
- NSF Noyce Award # 1439923
- First Name Julie
- Last Name Bianchini
- Discipline Biology, Chemistry, Math, Physics
Julie Bianchini, University of California, Santa Barbara, firstname.lastname@example.org; Alan Cain, University of California, Santa Barbara, email@example.com; Danika Morgan, University of California, Santa Barbara, firstname.lastname@example.org
Effectively teaching multilingual learners in content areas should be a priority for both beginning teachers and teacher educators, as the number of multilingual learners 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 multilingual learners. To teach multilingual learners in ways that align with current reform documents, beginning teachers must be able to recognize and use the diverse cultures, languages, and experiences of their students as resources for instruction in their discipline. Offering secondary science and mathematics methods courses that examine reform-based instruction for multilingual learners 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 multilingual learners is more complex than many of our preservice secondary science and mathematics teachers (PSTs) envision. We see our approach as innovative in that it reflects calls to move beyond lists of uncoordinated scaffolds focused on the teaching of vocabulary to promote implementation of coherent, principle-based instruction. Five key principles of reform-based instruction for multilingual learners informed both the classroom inquiry cycles discussed here and the larger secondary science and mathematics methods courses of which they were a part. These five principles are the following: creating a safe classroom community, valuing and using students’ funds of knowledge, attending to academic language demands and supports, providing rich language opportunities, and engaging students in cognitively demanding tasks.
To help PSTs better understand and use our five principles of effective instruction for multilingual learners, methods instructors asked them to engage in five cycles of inquiry into their classroom practice. Each inquiry cycle took two to three weeks to complete. More specifically, using a graphic organizer, PSTs began by reflecting on what they were already doing in their classroom to address a given principle, what aspect of their practice they intended to investigate to better understand the principle, and what data they planned to collect. Over the course of the next few weeks, they added to the graphic organizer how they analyzed the classroom data they collected, and what they learned about the principles and their classroom practice as a result. These inquiry cycles were discussed during each methods course session ? to first brainstorm what the principle meant and how it might be investigated and later to share what data were collected and what was learned.
We think these inquiry cycles are innovative and important for two reasons. First, they helped PSTs maintain a focus on multilingual learners throughout their methods course. While many methods courses might attend to multilingual learners on a single day, our courses used a principle-based framework to organize instruction and types of support for multilingual learners. Second, to further strengthen their instructional practice, we encouraged PSTs to investigate these principles in their own classrooms – to try out and collect data on a research-based practice to learn how to better support students’ language and literacy. In future years, we plan to decrease the number of inquiry cycles required so that PSTs have more time to investigate a given principle in greater depth and detail.
As the population of multilingual learners continues to grow across the U.S., there is a clear need for all beginning science and mathematics teachers to be able to support their content learning and language development. In other words, as demographics continue to change, multilingual learners 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 multilingual learners effectively requires creating content methods courses that are systematically organized around principles and that focus specifically on how to meet multilingual learners’ needs. Here, we investigated one type of assignment science and mathematics teacher educators might use to better support their beginning teachers of multilingual learners. Additional research is needed to understand how teacher education programs overall should be structured to support PSTs in effectively working with multilingual learners.