Addressing Language/Literacy Development for English Learners in Secondary Science Method Courses

Workshop Focus and Relevance
This proposed two-hour workshop focuses on a critical issue in science teacher education: supporting pre-service teachers during secondary science method courses to teach science to English Learners. Given the increased role of language and literacy necessary to engage with both conceptual demands and science and engineering practices called for by the Next Generation Standards, all students clearly benefit from opportunities for language/literacy development in science classrooms. Yet, students learning English as an additional language (English Leaners, or ELs) are particularly in need of support because of the linguistic challenges they may face in an unfamiliar language and because they are often members of other groups whom schools have not traditionally served well, such as low SES students and cultural minorities.

When working with teachers of ELs, it may seem to be a relatively straightforward task to suggest strategies (e.g., graphic organizers, wait time) that simplify language to make content more accessible. Yet, as Lee, Quinn, & Valdés (2013) argue, just as the NGSS argues for a shift away from a view of science learning as the amassing of detailed facts, we also need to shift how we view language learning, away from the acquisition of linguistic structures toward the development of “language use for communication and learning” (p. 1).

In response to this critical issue, research and tools developed from the National Science Foundation funded Secondary Science Teaching with English Language and Literacy Acquisition (SSTELLA) Project will guide workshop goals and activities. SSTELLA restructured secondary science method courses across six teacher preparation programs in California, Arizona, and Texas to better prepare secondary science teachers to teach a full range of ELs. SSTELLA was grounded in a framework that integrates science and language/literacy through four interrelated instructional practice dimensions:
• Scientific Sense-making: Positioning students as competent sense-making who draw on their intellectual, cultural, and linguistic resources to make sense of complex science ideas.
• Scientific Discourse: Fostering productive student talk and pressing for evidence-based explanations and arguments.
• Language/Literacy Development: Engaging and supporting students in a wide range of interactions and texts to develop the language and literacy needed to do academic work.
• Contextualization: Making science instruction meaningful and relevant to students.

Collectively, the SSTELLA Framework attends to science learning as envisioned in a Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013), while also creating contextualized spaces for language and literacy development specifically targeted to English Learners (ELs), but also supportive of all students.

We will utilize the framework and tools developed, as well as our own experiences teaching and participating in the restructured course to engage workshop participants in how they can modify their own course to prepare pre-service teachers to teach science to ELs. Research findings from our project suggests that the approach used can be implemented by science method instructors from a range of teacher preparation programs. Moreover, pre-service teachers participating in these restructured courses demonstrated higher levels of facilitating scientific discourse and contextualized science instruction than pre-service teachers in a comparison group (Lyon et al., 2014; Lyon et al., under review).

ASTE Membership Interest
This proposal is likely to garner broad interest from the ASTE membership. Secondary science method instructors are the target audience. The facilitators bring insight from various geographic, institutional, and EL Policy contexts (e.g., undergraduate and post bachelorette programs; states adopting and not adopting NGSS). We argue that the instruction and teacher preparation developed is essential for ELs, but also appropriate and helpful for all students. Thus, we anticipate that the workshop would appeal to ASTE members interested in approaches and tools that address language/literacy in conjunction with NGSS for all students, not just ELs. Science education researchers would also be interested in the framework that guided our work. Finally, we have also engaged with in-service science teacher mentors as part of our work. Thus, we can appeal to instructional coaches and and professional development consultants who may be interested in bringing ideas to work with in-service science teachers.

Workshop Presenters
Dr. Edward Lyon is an Assistant Professor of Science Education at Sonoma State University and formerly Assistant Professor at Arizona State University (2012-2015). His area of expertise involves instructional and assessment practices that promote scientific sense-making and literacy development for ELs in science classrooms. Dr. Lyon is a Co-Principal Investigator for the SSTELLA Project. A former high school science teacher, Dr. Lyon has taught secondary science methods for 6 years. He has published 15 articles related to science education and the book Secondary science teaching for English learners: Developing supportive and responsive learning contexts for sense-making and language development. Dr. Lyon has presented research at ASTE and NARST. He has also facilitated workshops on teaching science to ELs at NSTA, the California Science Teachers Association conference, and for school districts in California and in Arizona.

Joyce Hill is a former classroom teacher and experienced science teacher educator and professional development director. She has taught science methods as well as English Language Development methods. Ms. Hill directed the Monterey Bay Science Project K-12 Teacher Professional Development in Science. She was actively involved in several science and language/literacy development focused grants: (1) key collaborator on the SSTELLA project, (2) project director for a California Math Science Partnership grant, and (3) Professional Development Coordinator for the a NSF Local Systemic Change Grant. She also trained teachers throught California on NGSS.

Suzanne Garcia is a science teacher at Tam High School in Mill Valley, CA. She was a SSTELLA pre-service teacher participant who experienced the restructured secondary science method course in 2016-2017. Ms. Garcia received national recognition through a prestigious five-year Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellowship, which empowers early career teachers to become primary agents of educational improvement.

Workshop Objectives and Activities

By the end of the two hour-long workshop, workshop participants will be able to…
• identify instructional practices that support EL learning in science (via the SSTELLA Framework)
• use various tools and instructional tasks to address language/literacy development for ELs in a secondary science method course (or similar professional work)
• articulate a professional learning goal for the upcoming year to address language/literacy development for ELs in a secondary science method course (or similar professional work)

The two-hour workshop will be divided into four main activities. Besides supporting and assessing workshop objectives, each activity engages participants in actual tools and tasks that they can use for their own method course.

Activity 1: Warm up (20 minutes)
Participants will complete a warm up activity to assess participants’ initial ideas about ELs and supporting pre-service teachers. Poster paper will be taped up around the room, each with one of three questions: “Who are ELs?” “What should pre-service science teachers do and learn during a secondary method course?” and “How can you support pre-service science teachers in teaching ELs?” Participants will silently write responses and read responses of others. Afterward, facilitators will guide participants in noticing both commonalities in response and variation. The purpose will be to help everyone understand each others experiences and priorities. Facilitators will then describe the workshops objectives and agenda.

Activity 2: SSTELLA Framework (30 minutes)
Facilitators will share a graphic depicting the four aforementioned practice dimensions: Scientific sense-making, Scientific Discourse, Language/Literacy Development, and Contextualized Activity. Participants will be given a template to record evidence of each practice dimension while watching video clips from a mentor biology teacher (and actually used in our own method course). Each facilitator will engage a small group in discussion around what they notice to assess participant’s identification of the various dimensions and hone in on important features. We will then facilitate a whole class discussion to summarize key points and draw on our own experiences about what to emphasize when working with PSTs. For instance, from our own research, pre-service teachers might come in believing that vocabulary alone is the key to supporting ELs.

Activity 3: Supporting PSTs in the Method Course (55 minutes)
We will walk participants through several tasks we have carried out in the method course that support pre-service teachers (PSTs) in experiencing, deconstructing, and then approximating specific practices aligned with the SSTELLA Framework. The following tasks center on the very same science lessons featured in the videos from Activity 2:

1. Teach PSTs part of the science lesson to experience how language/literacy can be integrated with the science practice of evidence-based explanations and models.
2. Engage PSTs in deconstructing the practices experienced to understand what they look like, when to engage in them, and how they support EL learning.
3. Engage PSTs in watching video clips (like the one shown in Activity 2) to understand the practice in a real teaching context.
4. Allow a space for PSTs to rehearse the practices observed by in the method course

As we walk participants through the tasks, we will call upon them to record connections to their own method course (to assess their own ability use tools and tasks featured). We will encourage participants to share their own perceived challenges, and we can offer insights from our own experiences about how to overcome likely challenges. We will also share how to make deeper connections with PSTs’ field experience by (1) inviting mentor teachers to model lessons in the courses, (2) taking candidates out to a school sites to observe teaching collectively, (3) supporting PSTs in enacting rehearsed practices in the field placement.

Activity 4: Closure/reflection (15 minutes)
The workshop will conclude with a short summary of key points. Participants will complete a google form workshop reflection to list contact information, workshop takeaways, and a specific a goal for their own upcoming course (or professional work) based upon the takeaways. For example, a goal might be to use one of the exemplar teaching video clips to support candidates in levering students’ out of school experiences.

Post-Workshop Collaboration
After the workshop, participants will have opportunities for ongoing support and collaboration. Based upon the workshop reflection, the facilitators will pair up participants as critical friends. Each pair will use a google docs template to (1) create an action plan to carry out the reflection goal and (2) reflect on the actual enactment of the plan. Each participant will receive feedback on his/her action plan from the critical friend and one of the facilitators. Participants will have access to all materials from the workshop. All action plans will be made available to participants to offer additional ideas and perspectives. The facilitators will host a zoom meeting around November 2019 so that participants can share out enactments of action plans.