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Inquiry, Talk, and Text: Promising Tools that Bridge STEM Learning for Young English Language Learners

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-College: Fundamental Research in Engineering Education (1)

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Michelle L. Pantoya Texas Tech University

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J. W. Wright Regents Endowed Chair Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Texas Tech University. PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Davis. Specialty in Combustion of Energetic Materials and Elementary Engineering Education.

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Zenaida Aguirre-Munoz Texas Tech University

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Dr. Zenaida Aguirre-Muñoz is an Associate Professor and Program Anchor of the Bilingual Education and English-as-a-Second-Language Certification Program at Texas Tech University. She is currently Associate Director of the STEM Center for Outreach Research and Education and serves as Assistant Director for the Center for Leadership in Education. Her research includes STEM education, the assessment and instruction of culturally and linguistically diverse students, bilingual/ESL teacher education; and academic literacy development.

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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.

Pantoya, M. L., & Aguirre-Munoz, Z. (2017, June), Inquiry, Talk, and Text: Promising Tools that Bridge STEM Learning for Young English Language Learners Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28536

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