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ERIC Number: ED513127
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 248
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1092-4098-6
Learning Science, Talking Science: The Impact of a Technology-Enhanced Curriculum on Students' Science Learning in Linguistically Diverse Mainstream Classrooms
Ryoo, Kihyun
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Stanford University
The significant increase of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the United States raises complex questions about how to provide these students with access to high quality education that can improve both their content knowledge of school subjects and their English proficiency, particularly their academic English proficiency. The development of proficiency in academic English is a central challenge in science education because science has a unique language of its own which includes extensive technical vocabulary, specialized grammatical forms, and unfamiliar discourse patterns fundamentally different from the everyday English that ELLs use in their daily lives. Additionally, in order to become scientifically literate, students not only need to understand scientific phenomena, but also must be able to communicate their ideas in scientific ways, both of which require an appropriate level of proficiency in scientific language. Although acquiring both scientific content and language simultaneously is already demanding for most students, the challenges that ELLs face are even more serious. Most ELLs are still developing English proficiency while learning science subjects, and even after ELLs become fluent in conversational English, they may still Jack the scientific language proficiency necessary to engage in science subjects. ELLs generally require a minimum of five to seven years to develop the appropriate grade level of academic language (of which scientific language is a sub-category) and to catch up with their English-proficient counterparts. Not surprisingly, the largest achievement gaps--on average, 39 points--in science subjects persist between ELLs and English-Proficient Students (EPSs). This study explored effective instructional approaches that can help ELLs master both the content and the language of science and possibly close the achievement gaps between ELLs and EPSs. The study specifically examined the impact of a technology-enhanced curriculum that consisted of two teaching approaches to ELLs' science learning: teaching science in everyday English (the Everyday Language approach) and using computer simulation to solve scientific problems (the Simulation approach). For this study, the technology-enhanced curriculum was carefully constructed based on the actual curriculum design, five design-based research studies, and consultation with fifth-grade teachers. The randomized experimental study was conducted with 220 fifth-grade ELLs and EPSs from four public elementary schools. Before the study began, all students took pretests and three students randomly selected from each class took pre-interviews. All students participated in six one-hour long consecutive science sessions about the concepts of photosynthesis and respiration. For the first three sessions, students received individual science instruction about the scientific concepts using a computer program. Students in the Everyday-Language condition (the Everyday-Simulation and the Everyday-Website groups) were taught in everyday language prior to the introduction of scientific language. By contrast, students in the Hybrid-Language condition (the Hybrid-Simulation and the Hybrid-Website groups) were taught simultaneously in both everyday language and scientific language (hybrid language). For the last three sessions, students were randomly assigned to triads stratified by gender and English proficiency, and each triad participated in a series of problem-solving activities. Students in the Simulation condition (the Everyday-Simulation and the Hybrid-Simulation groups) used a computer simulation program, whereas students in the Website condition (the Everyday-Website and the Hybrid-Website groups) used a simple website. After the study, all students took the posttests, and the same three students participated in post-interviews. Overall, the results of this study suggest that both teaching science in everyday language and using computer simulation to solve scientific problems can be beneficial for ELLs' science learning. However, in order for ELLs to master both the content and the language of science, it is important to provide them not only with access to scientific language, but also with multiple opportunities to use this scientific language in different academic contexts because only understanding scientific language alone does not always prepare ELLs to be able to use the language to communicate their understanding of scientific ideas appropriately. In this study, ELLs taught in everyday language prior to the introduction of scientific language significantly outperformed ELLs taught in hybrid language. Among those ELLs taught in everyday language, ELLs who used computer simulation during problem-solving activities demonstrated both a more improved understanding of scientific phenomena and a superior ability to use scientific language accurately for different purposes, compared to ELLs who used the website to solve scientific problems. The results of the study also indicate the potential advantage of computer simulation for decreasing the learning gap between ELLs and EPSs. The use of computer simulation was more effective in enhancing ELLs' scientific knowledge and their use of scientific language than the use of the website, but the simulation was not beneficial for EPSs' science learning. Since ELLs' performance improved so markedly with the use of computer simulation, while that of EPSs remained roughly the same, this form of pedagogy resulted in no significant achievement gap between ELLs and EPSs taught in this manner. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Education; Elementary Secondary Education; Grade 5
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
What Works Clearinghouse Reviewed: Meets Evidence Standards without Reservations