The main purpose of this project is to develop instructional materials for a year-long, fifth grade curriculum for all students, including ELLs. The planned curriculum will promote language-focused and three-dimensional science learning (through blending of science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas), aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the Conceptual Framework for Language use in the Science Classroom.
This project was submitted to the Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program that seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The project is responsive to the societal challenges emerging from the nation's diverse and rapidly changing student demographics, including the rise of English language learners (ELLs), the fastest growing student population (see, for example, "U.S. school enrollment hits majority-minority milestone", Education Week, February 1, 2015). ELLs have grown exponentially: 1 in 5 students (21%) in the nation spoke a language other than English at home in 2011. The project's main purpose is to develop instructional materials for a year-long, fifth grade curriculum for all students, including ELLs. The planned curriculum will promote language-focused and three-dimensional science learning (through blending of science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas), aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012), the Next Generation Science Standards (Achieve, 2013), and the Conceptual Framework for Language use in the Science Classroom (Lee, Quinn & Valdés, 2013). The grade-level science content will target topics, such as structure and properties of matter, matter and energy in organisms and ecosystems, and Earth's and space systems, with engineering design embedded in each topic. The language approach will emphasize analytical science tasks aimed at making sense of and constructing scientific knowledge; and receptive (listening and reading) and productive (speaking and writing) language functions. Products and research results from this project will help to reduce the science achievement gaps between ELLs and non-ELLs, and enable all students to attain higher levels of proficiency in subsequent grade levels.
After the curriculum has been developed and field-tested during Years 1-3, a pilot study will be conducted in Year 4 to investigate promise of effectiveness. Using a randomized controlled trial design, the pilot study will address three research questions: (1) What is the impact of the intervention on science learning and language development for all students, including ELLs and former ELLs?; (2) What is the impact of the intervention on teachers' instructional practices?; and (3) To what extent are teachers able to implement the instructional materials with fidelity? To address research question 1, a sequence of multi-level models (MLMs) in which the posttest score for each student measure (the state/district science test score, and the science score and the language score on the researcher-developed assessment) will be regressed on a dummy variable representing condition (treatment or control) and pretest covariates. To examine whether the intervention is beneficial for students of varying levels of English proficiency, subgroup analyses will be conducted comparing ELLs in the treatment group against ELLs in the control group; former ELLs in the treatment group against former ELLs in the control group; and non-ELLs in the treatment group against non-ELLs in the control group, using the same MLMs. Exploratory analyses will be employed to examine the extent to which the level of English proficiency moderates the impact of the intervention on ELLs. To address research question 2, a 2-level model (teachers as level-1, and schools as level-2) in which the post-questionnaire scale score will be regressed on a dummy variable representing condition (treatment or control) will be conducted. To address research question 3, plans are to analyze ratings on coverage, adherence, and quality of instruction from classroom observations, along with ratings on program differentiation and participant responsiveness from the implementation and feedback form.