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Visiting Washington, D.C.
In Event: Educating Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners: New Approaches to Practice in Teacher Education
Educators continue to grapple with providing EL students with access to rigorous, grade-level appropriate curriculum (de Jong & Harper, 2005; Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008), particularly in subjects such as science (Bunch, 2013; Lee, Quinn, & Valdés, 2013; Turkan, De Oliveira, Lee, & Phelps, 2014). Research-practice partnerships may help advance our understanding of 1) practices that best serve EL students in science classrooms and 2) professional development (PD) models that best support teacher and student learning. This paper examines how spaces were created to integrate EL-focused tools and practices into rigorous science instruction to build secondary science teachers’ instructional capacity in urban schools.
Our research draws from literature on the improvement of teaching practices that occurs through several interrelated mechanisms: the work of teacher leaders (Mangin & Stoelinga, 2008), the development of supportive tools and routines, and the joint engagement of multiple stakeholders in a shared problem space (Coburn, 2001; Bryk et al., 2010; Coburn & Russell, 2008). In this study, we attend to the ways in which these mechanisms can afford or constrain a focus on EL instruction within science teaching.
Methods and Data Sources
Our job-embedded professional development project assembled teams of fifty secondary science teachers from ten schools, secondary science coaches, EL facilitators, and researchers in a diverse urban school district. We met to inquire into and support the learning and development of science and EL practices through multiple day-long “studio days” in schools, following a modified “lesson study” model (Lewis, Perry, & Murata, 2006). All studio days were videotaped and coded analytically along a variety of dimensions, including who initiated and sustained the interaction, the focus of discussion (practices, tools, needs of/noticings about students, etc.), and the EL-specificity of the interaction.
We found three patterns of integration of EL tools and practices in the science PD that created spaces for teachers, coaches and researchers to notice and inquire into EL practices and science practices. In the first pattern, the EL coaches nominally labeled EL practices for teachers. This practice failed to spark robust conversations about teaching and learning. The second and third patterns supported longer-term inquiry into teaching and learning by teachers, coaches and researchers. The second pattern involved shifting the role of the EL coach to one who helps pre-plan lessons to include deliberate talk structures for students to build robust scientific explanations. The relationships between the practice and learning for EL students, however, were not fully explored. The last pattern emerged from a need to support EL students in a sheltered classroom. Science and EL coaches again pre-planned lessons with teachers, but classroom inquiries were focused on language structures embedded in tools.
This paper addresses a gap in the research concerned with integrating EL and science instructional practices in rigorous and concrete ways and contributes to our understanding of how high-leverage practices can be improved through the work of collaborative partnerships between schools, districts, and higher education institutions.