Bodong Chen

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Notes: Lee2013-sl: Science and language for English language learners in relation to Next Generation Science Standards and with implications for Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics



Citekey: @Lee2013-sl

Lee, O., Quinn, H., & Valdés, G. (2013). Science and language for English language learners in relation to Next Generation Science Standards and with implications for Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. Educational Researcher , 42(4), 223–233. Retrieved from






By examining intersections between learning of science and learning of language, the article identifies key features of the language of the science classroom as students engage in these language-intensive science and engineering practices. We propose that when students, especially English language learners, are adequately supported to “do” spe- cific things with language, both science learning and language learning are promoted. (p. 1)

This article discusses language learning challenges and oppor- tunities that will emerge as ELLs engage with NGSS. (p. 1)

Table 1 Three Dimensions of the Science Framework (p. 2)

Engagement in any of the science and engineering practices involves both scientific sense-making and language use. (p. 2)

Engagement in these practices is also lan - guage intensive. (p. 2)

(no. 2) developing and using models, (no. 6) constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering), (no. 7) engaging in argu- ment from evidence, and (no. 8) obtaining, evaluating, and com- municating information. (p. 2)

Next Generation Science Standards with a Focus on Science and Engineering Practices (p. 2)

The Framework defines science learning as having three dimen- sions: (a) science and engineering practices, (b) crosscutting con- cepts, and © core ideas in each science discipline (see Table 1). (p. 2)

The meaning of the term inquiry-based sci- ence is refined and deepened by the explicit definition of the set of science and engineering practices. These practices are pre- sented both as a representation of what scientists do as they engage in scientific inquiry and as a necessary part of what stu- dents must do both to learn science and to understand the nature of science. (p. 2)

Second, these practices are language intensive and require stu- dents to engage in classroom science discourse (see literature review by G. Kelly, 2007). Students must read, write, view, and visually represent as they develop their models and explanations. (p. 2)

Third, these practices are generally less familiar to many sci- ence teachers and require shifts for science teaching (Windschitl, Thompson, & Braaten, 2011). (p. 3)

Finally, the requirement for classroom discourse and the norms for this behavior are to a great extent common across all the science disciplines, and indeed across all the subject areas. (p. 3)

In short, as science classrooms incorporate the discourse-rich science and engineering practices described in the Framework, they will become richer language learning environments as well as richer science learning environments for all students. (p. 4)

intervention studies to support teachers’ and students’ use of discourse and social practice in developing scientific under- standing and engaging in scientific practices. For example, Engle and Conant (2002) identified four principles to foster productive disciplinary engagement in the classroom: problematizing con- tent, giving students authority, holding students accountable to others and to disciplinary norms, and providing relevant resources. In a similar line of research, Cornelius and Herrenkohl (2004) mapped students’ epistemological development in science onto the dynamic interactions of talk, text, other representations, and social interactions that took place in science classrooms. As another line of research, Windschitl et al. (2011) developed dis- course tools and scaffolding to support novice science teachers in developing elements of expertlike teaching, with the greatest gains made in pressing their students for evidence-based scientific explanations through modeling and representations of challeng- ing science concepts. (p. 4)

Language in Science Learning and Teaching (p. 4)

teachers need a nuanced view of how language is used to construct and commu- nicate meaning in science. Contemporary research on language in science learning and teaching highlights what students and teachers do with language as they engage in science inquiry and discourse practices (see literature review by Carlsen, 2007; G. Kelly, 2007). (p. 4)

Systemic Functional Linguistics Perspective (p. 4)

Systemic functional linguistics provides one perspective on how language is used in science learning. Halliday and Martin (1993) framed what they termed “the linguistic register”3 of science class- room communication as a resource for meaning-making, not as a rigid set of conventions or a system of rules to be learned. Halliday (2002) argued that students must develop and under- stand the linguistic tools for meaning-making in science as com- prising a unique linguistic register. This register provides tools for understanding what people are doing, what their relations are to each other, and how they are using language in the context of making scientific meaning. (p. 4)

Language in Science Learning with ELLs (p. 4)

another area of research on language in science learning has focused on students who have traditionally been marginalized in science, including ELLs. (p. 4)

Halliday and Matthiessen (2004) argued that science and everyday discourse are dialogi- cally complementary, interrelated, and synergistic and represent a fundamental continuity that provides different ways of depict- ing a common reality. (p. 4)

The work focuses on the linguistic, cultural, concep - tual, and imaginative resources that ELLs bring to the science classroom that can serve as intellectual resources for learning scien- tific knowledge and practices. In another longstanding line of research, Lee and colleagues (e.g., Lee, Buxton, Lewis, & LeRoy, 2006; Lee & Fradd, 1998) highlighted the importance of develop- ing congruence between students’ cultural and linguistic experi- ences and the specific demands of particular academic disciplines such as science. (p. 4)

Discourse and Social Practice in the Science Classroom (p. 4)

how discourse becomes part of the social practice of the science classroom (see literature review by G. Kelly, 2007). (p. 4)

Lemke (1990) argued that discourse should be seen as “differenti- ated speech” that different groups of people and texts bring to science. For Lemke, the greatest challenge science teachers face is how to support students in building connections across differen- tiated speech forms, from everyday language to disciplinary dis- course. In a similar vein, Gee (1990) proposed that to become competent users of the genre of classroom science discourse (which he distinguished from the genre of research science discourse), students must adopt certain communicative practices, such as those accepted for evaluating claims (p. 4)

New Standards and Second Language Acquisition with ELLs (p. 4)

Theories of Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy (p. 5)

second language acquisition (SLA) (p. 5)

Here we present a brief discussion of first and second lan- guages and their acquisition that emphasizes pragmatic, textual, and sociolinguistic competencies in SLA (Bachman, 1990; Canale & Swain, 1980). (p. 5)

“Doing” Things With Language (p. 5)

Children naturally acquire both the ability to use language and implicit knowledge about not only the structure of that language (e.g., the sound patterns of words, the order of words) but also the conventions (e.g., when to speak or not speak and what to say to whom). By the time they arrive in school, children are skilled users of the variety of language functions used in their home and community. They can do many things with language. For exam- ple, they can argue with their siblings, complain, disagree, ask and answer questions, and make their needs and feelings known. (p. 5)

Second language pedagogy. Over 25 centuries of second language teaching (L. G. Kelly, 1969), there have been a series of pendu- lum shifts, debates, innovations, and controversies. In general, research on second language teaching (Ellis, 2005; Norris & Ortega, 2000, 2006) has been carried out primarily with adults in post-secondary settings. (p. 5)

Students who are referred to as ELLs arrive at school with a well-established first language but at many different levels of English language development. (p. 5)

second language pedago - gies can generally be classified as following one of two approaches: the structural and the experiential (Stern, 1990). Structural approaches based on traditional or mainstream SLA focus on “teaching” specific language elements (e.g., vocabulary, pronun- ciation, grammatical forms) (p. 5)

However, when supported appropriately, most ELLs are capable of learning subjects such as science through their emerging language and of comprehending and car- rying out sophisticated language functions (e.g., arguing from evidence, providing explanations) using less-than-perfect English. They can do a number of things using whatever level of English they have and can participate in science and engineering prac- tices. (p. 5)

Experiential approaches to teaching language, adopted in this article, are based on the socially oriented view of SLA. These approaches focus on supporting students’ ability to do things with language, engaging them in purposeful activities, and pro- viding them with opportunities for language use. (p. 6)

In this article, we argue for two shifts: (a) a shift away from both content-based language instruction and the sheltered model to a focus on language-in-use environments and (b) a shift away from “teaching” discrete language skills to a focus on supporting language development by providing appropriate contexts and experiences. We envision science teachers who create carefully planned classrooms where students engage in science and engi- neering practices, such as evidence-based arguments and explana- tions of phenomena or systems. (p. 6)

Intersections between Learning of Science and Learning of Language (p. 6)

In this article, we identify key features of the language of the sci- ence classroom as students engage in language-intensive science and engineering practices. (p. 6)

Language of the Science Classroom: Moving Toward Disciplinary Language of Science (p. 6)

Content-Based Language Instruction (p. 6)

Content-based language instruction, at its best, integrates the teaching of language and the teaching of academic subjects (Scarcella, 2003; Schleppegrell, 2004; Snow, 2001). (p. 6)

If science teachers are to engage ELLs in science and engineering practices, they must have a clear understanding of the ways that students and teachers use oral and written language to interact with each other and to obtain information from writ- ten materials. They must monitor individual students’ language use to ensure that all students are comprehending the discourse and participating in it. (p. 6)

we introduce the term language of the science classroom that includes the registers (i.e., styles of talk) used in the science classroom by teachers and students as they participate in aca- demic tasks and activities and demonstrate their knowledge in oral or written forms.5 Language of the science classroom is grounded in colloquial or everyday language but moves toward the disciplinary language of science. (p. 6)

As the grade level advances, written materials intended for learners tend to mirror disciplinary language more closely. Our intent is to be explicit about what science teachers and their students “do” with lan- guage in their classrooms. (p. 6)

Table 2 presents the four selected (p. 6)

Table 3 Language of the Science Classroom (p. 8)

science and engineering practices, types of analytical tasks that students engage in for each practice, and receptive (listening/ reading) and productive (speaking/writing) language functions (see CCSSO, 2012, for all eight practices). (p. 8)

language use: modality, registers, and examples of registers in an attempt to move beyond simple definitions of “the language of science” as vocabulary or grammatical correctness. (p. 8)

Language serves as the vehicle to perform analytical tasks and ultimately to construct knowledge. (p. 8)

Table 3 focuses on the language of the science classroom itself and, in column 1, highlights three key elements of classroom (p. 8)

Conclusions and Implications (p. 9)

Across these three subject areas, the new standards share a common emphasis on disciplinary practices and classroom discourse (see Figure 1). As engagement in these practices is language intensive, it presents both language demands and opportunities for all students, espe- cially ELLs. (p. 9)

Given the richness of science and engineering practices, NGSS will lead to science classrooms that are also rich language learning environments for ELLs. (p. 9)

This view is consistent with contemporary litera - ture on language in science learning and teaching that highlights what students and teachers do with language as they engage in science inquiry and discourse practices (Carlsen, 2007; G. Kelly, 2007). This view is also consistent with current theories of SLA that emphasize what learners can do with language—the socially oriented (rather than individually oriented) view of SLA and the experiential (rather than structural) pedagogies. (p. 9)

Although content-based language instruction, sheltered instruction, and academic language instruction are valuable attempts to bring together subject matter instruction and second language instruction, their predominant emphases have been on the study and practice of language elements rather than on immersion in rich environments that use language for sense- making. (p. 9)

We also stress the value of attention to the language of the science classroom that moves toward the disciplin- ary language of science (see Table 3). (p. 9)

To the contrary, we argue that NGSS can provide a context where science learning and language learn- ing can occur simultaneously. (p. 9)