- Year 2017
- NSF Noyce Award # 1340020
- First Name Brendan
- Last Name Callahan
- Discipline Biology
Neporcha Cone, Kennesaw State University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Paula Jackson, Kennesaw State University, email@example.com
Mike Dias, Kennesaw State University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Kuhel, Kennesaw State University, email@example.com
There is an achievement gap between dual language learners (DLL) and native born speakers of English. The achievement gap is exacerbated by the increasing numbers of DLL entering the secondary classrooms. Of the sciences, biology may be the most difficult for English Learners (ELs) to learn because it is vocabulary-intensive; research from the early 1990s suggests that high school biology texts include close to 10,000 new vocabulary words (e.g., Anderson, 1990; Gibbs & Lawson, 1992; Lumpe & Beck, 1996 ). As a result of these findings, the faculty at Kennesaw State University received a Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program in order to encourage qualified content specialists to receive their Master of Arts in Teaching degree in Biology Education along with ESOL endorsement to their State of Georgia teaching certificate.
The overall goals for the project are to increase the number of secondary biology teachers who are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to support students who are dual language learners, as well as provide that knowledge to them through the attainment of an ESOL endorsement as part of their GA Teaching Certificate.
The key activities for the MAT students are earning a degree in Biology Education, and earning the endorsement for ESOL. Future professional development activities will be designed based on the feedback from the current study.
The strategies used to carry out the project are enrollment in 9 credit hours of online ESOL classes that lead to an endorsement in the area along with teaching certification. This is the main focus of the project. As Noyce alumni are starting to complete their coursework and enter the workforce, we realize that what they encounter in their daily lives might be substantially different than what they were prepared to support. Thus, this study is both introductory and qualitative in nature. We are seeking to develop recurrent themes from the current induction-level teachers to determine their current environment, and how we may help support them to assist dual language learners achieve proficiency and mastery in science. We are collecting data through a one-on-one interview with both the practicing teachers and the students who have just completed student teaching this spring.
Our practicing teachers have a tendency to find themselves in schools that have dual language learners. When we expand the definition of high needs schools to include those who have large numbers of struggling learners, all of our teachers have the ability to make use of their ESOL learning. We have found that there is not a one-size-fits-all for assisting DLL and struggling learners, as not all DLL students are similar. Some students struggle with English but are proficient in their first language and have a good understanding of science, while others struggle in their first language as well. Thus, differentiation for a variety of DLL and struggling learners provides a challenge to new teachers, who are often adjusting to the teaching profession in general. We will provide some workshops to help teachers overcome these challenges to promote academic achievement and both English proficiency and scientific literacy to their students.
The broader impacts of the project include the appropriate education that dual language learners are receiving from teachers who are able to support their needs in language and science. As STEM is critical from both an economic and cultural perspective, science for all by definition must include this underserved population. This will enable the students to become more integrated into the larger society, and provide additional opportunities for them.
The results of the study will serve as a foundation for providing additional resources for new secondary science teachers so they are better able to serve their students. As we progress, these materials will be made available and future studies will examine the impacts of these professional development opportunities.