Language development in the context of science : affordances, constraints, and ideological contradictions
- Given the increase in linguistic diversity in public schools in the United States, supporting multilingual learners (MLLs) in the science classroom is an important area of research. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for all students to engage in the practices of science, such as argumentation from evidence. Yet the practice of argumentation is rare in most classrooms, particularly those that include students who are labeled as language learners; traditional approaches to supporting these students often result in impoverished curricula that fail to meet the vision of the NGSS. Thus, more needs to be known about the instructional strategies that can support MLLs' engagement in standards-aligned science learning. Using a comparative case study model, I examine variation in instructional practices for language across two science classrooms with large numbers of MLLs. Specifically, I explore the opportunities provided to MLLs to engage in argumentation, the instructional strategies for language that the teacher employs, and the ideas about language that are reflected in their instructional approaches. I draw from ethnographic methods to examine a wide range of data sources, including whole-group video, small-group video of focal MLLs, teacher interviews, and artifacts from the teachers' professional learning. The analysis showed that the two classrooms contrasted sharply in the ideas about language reflected in the instruction and the resultant opportunities for MLLs. In one classroom, the teacher focused on "academic language" and employed a range of related strategies that she learned in a district-based professional learning program. These strategies often resulted in students using forms of language that had limited disciplinary significance and connection to the central science goals, which reduced their opportunities to engage in argumentation and other science practices. Additionally, the strategies often employed behavioristic approaches to learning that prevented students from drawing from their own linguistic resources and using language in meaningful contexts. In contrast, the other teacher did not explicitly focus on academic language development and instead prioritized the communication of disciplinary ideas and the use of evidence. Her classroom offered more opportunities for students to engage in argumentation, use disciplinary forms of language, and engage with disciplinary texts. Furthermore, the teacher's focus on the communication of disciplinary meaning allowed her students to draw from their full range of linguistic resources to engage in science practices. This study contributes to theory about disciplinary language development in several ways: by showing how ideas about language can influence disciplinary opportunities, by forwarding a theory of language affordances (Van Lier, 2006) to support language development in science, and by reframing disciplinary language in a way that values students' existing linguistic repertoires. Implications are drawn for teacher education on NGSS-aligned science instruction and language development in the content areas.
|Type of resource
|electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
|1 online resource.
|Reigh, Emily Virginia
|Brown, Bryan Anthony
|Brown, Bryan Anthony
|Degree committee member
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education
|Statement of responsibility
|Emily V. Reigh.
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2021.
- © 2021 by Emily Virginia Reigh
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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