Teaching science to English-language learners goal of National Science Foundation grant KENNESAW,…
Georgia (Nov 20, 2015) — Teaching science to English-language learners goal of National Science Foundation grantLink To Website
KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 20) – English-language learners can do science, regardless of their literacy skills. That’s the premise behind a $250,000 National Science Foundation grant aimed at redefining how science is taught to young English-language learners.
“The purpose of the grant is to allow us, as a department, to figure out better ways to support our candidates when it comes to teaching science to English-language learners,” said grant recipient Neporcha Cone of Kennesaw State University. “Students can still do science even if they can’t write about science.”
Cone, an associate professor of science education in the Bagwell College of Education’s Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, says this integrated approach of using science to help develop literacy skills represents a “paradigm shift” in teacher preparation.
“Students whose first language is not English can learn science without having fully grasped the English language,” she said. “Most teachers feel like they have to teach English first, but based on research, that’s not the best way. It (the language barrier) doesn’t mean you don’t teach science; you use science to develop those literacy skills as well.”
The majority of the funding from the two-year grant will fund stipends for teacher candidates, who will participate in professional learning communities, where they will discuss the successes and challenges they’re experiencing in the classroom.
“We want to provide them with strategies to support their teaching, especially in their first year,” Cone said. “We will help support developing lessons that use those strategies, followed by classroom observations to see if those strategies are effective.”
Cone said she hopes the grant helps bridge the divide between research and practice.
“We don’t want to just collect data,” Cone said. “My goal is to collapse that data and bring it back to the college and see how we can embed that into our teacher preparation programs.”
As part of her post-doctoral research, Cone worked on a similar NSF grant at the University of Miami. The result of that five-year project was a curriculum embedded with strategies for teaching English-language learners that impacted 3,000 – 5,000 students.
“When I first graduated, I taught middle grades science for seven years at a school that was 95 percent Hispanic,” the Miami native said. “I had to learn how to adapt my curriculum to meet the needs of my students.”
That’s how Cone found her passion for helping other teachers navigate increasingly diverse classrooms.
“I became a professor because I wanted to make a greater impact,” she said. “I’m preparing the teachers that are going into classrooms and impacting the lives of students. My goal is to contribute to the production of effective science teachers.”
--By Jennifer Hafer