Inquiry, talk, and text: Promising tools that bridge STEM learning for young English language learners

Michelle L. Pantoya, Zenaida Aguirre-Munoz

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Little is understood about how young English language learners (ELLs) respond to engineering-centered literacy and design activities and whether that response ultimately leads to content understanding. This study is part of a larger investigation targeting engagement, learning, and identity development of primary English language learners (ELLs) during a five-day engineering unit. Specifically, kindergarten, first and second grade students were examined from twelve classrooms such that 12 teachers and 220 students participated in this study. The research examined the following question: to what extent does the use of engineering centered activities emphasizing academic conversations during age appropriate tasks lead to increased knowledge of technology and the engineering design process for linguistically diverse students. The view of engineering learning taken here emphasizes processes (or antecedents to learning outcomes) as well as products of instruction (conceptual understanding and achievement). One implication of this domain specific approach is that instruction should focus on helping students acquire the core ideas and ways of thinking central to a particular domain of knowledge. Consistent with this learning perspective, the extent to which an emphasis on joint negotiation practices (i.e., academic conversations) during hands-on design and literacy activities increased student learning was investigated. To answer the research question, a 2 (group: trained and control) by 3 (time: prior to intervention, immediately after intervention, one week after intervention) repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted for each grade level separately. The repeated measures Analysis of Variance revealed significant results with low to moderate effect sizes. Learning gains were observed for ELLs who received engineering-centered literacy activities. These results provide preliminary evidence of the impact of the integration of academic conversation, and narrative texts to improve student learning. Given the cultural and linguistic background of these ELLs, the results reveal the potential for these instructional strategies to promote broader STEM participation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017


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