Research

Interactive Science and Technology Instruction for English Learners

Investigators: Mark Warschauer

Funding: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Description

This research and development project addresses three critical problems facing science and technology education in the U.S.

  1. U.S. students, compared to their counterparts in most other developed countries and to the requirements of a 21st-century economy, demonstrate insufficient scientific literacy.
  2. Our gaps in scientific literacy are especially acute; though our high-achieving students perform approximately as well as students in other developed countries, our low-achieving students perform significantly worse.
  3. There are serious gaps in young people's access to and use of technology, with, for example, non-English speaking Hispanics suffering dramatically lower access to computer and the Internet.

The goals of this multi-method study are to gather baseline data and first-year implementation data about an innovative program in a Southern California school district aimed at improving science instruction and technological literacy. The program will use low-cost netbook computers and specialized software among a group of largely Hispanic fifth and sixth grade students, approximately half of whom are English language learners.

The program is designed to achieve the following goals:

  • Engaging Students in Interactive Learning
  • Supporting Student Writing About Science
  • Promoting Technological Literacy through Sustainable Individual Access
  • Developing Teachers Technological-Pedagogical-Content Knowledge
  • Improving Performance of English Learners and Other At-Risk Students

Research questions are as follows:

  1. How do students who participate in the program improve in the access to, use of, and self-perceived proficiency with technology, as well as an interest in future studies or careers in technology or science, compared to a comparable group of students who don't participate in the program, and how is this mediated by socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and English learner status?
  2. What impact does the program have on academic achievement in science as measured by performance on the fifth grade California Standards Test in Science (CSTS)?
  3. How do students who participate in the program improve in writing about science, and how is this mediated by socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and English learner status?
  4. What kinds of gains in knowledge of and use of technology for instruction do teachers in the program experience, and how does this compare to teachers who are not in the program?

This study will help us understand the types of tools, approaches, and methods can best help Hispanics and English learners develop their knowledge, communication skills, and attitudes in science and technology.