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Middle School Science Using Robotics For Esl Students

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Technological Literacy I

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.914.1 - 9.914.13

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Paper Authors

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Michael Robinson

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M. Sami Fadali

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Ann-Marie Vollstedt

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Eric Wang

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session # 1661

Middle School Science Using Robotics For LEP and ESL Students Mike Robinson/M. S. Fadali/ Eric Wang/Ann-Marie Vollstedt Curriculum & Instruction/ Electrical Engineering/Mechanical Engineering University of Nevada Reno Reno NV 89557


There is a need for more effective science teaching strategies for science teachers with large numbers of Limited English Language (LEP) students in grades seven and eight. The nature of science lends itself well to concrete activities that offer students the opportunity to, not only learn English vocabulary, but to gain a better grasp of concepts when associated with inquiry and hands-on learning. We present the results of a project* that used robotics to teach MS physics to LEP students in regular classes, English as a second language (ESL) students and LEP students in a voluntary after-school program sponsored by Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA). The project was in collaboration with engineering, physics, education and the local school district to train middle school (MS) science teachers who teach high minority populations. The paper describes how robotics was used to (i) address the physics part of the grade eight state physical science content standards of Nevada, and (ii) indirectly address the national science education goals of promoting science literacy and inquiry thinking in all students. We also address the connection of robotics to physical science content and pedagogy, as well as engineering principles. We explain how this was used to motivate students by connecting science to society. Even though the results of this project are directed at predominantly LEP and ESL students of Hispanic origin, the paper addresses the issue of improving student achievement in multicultural societies. It focuses on the need for both different teaching strategies and different curricula for underserved (LEP and ESL) students in grade eight science to improve their science achievement. It discusses why underachieving students need curricula that apply and connect science to societal needs more than students from generally more affluent families.

The content is significant in several ways. First, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and curriculum to make science more interesting to underserved students is discussed. Second, the possibility that better science teaching strategies may motivate more underserved students to pursue more challenging science courses is discussed. Last, the potential for increasing job opportunities and increasing the human pool for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in a technology driven society is discussed.

* This work was supported in part by the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation Engineering Schools of the West Grants Initiative.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ÆÉ 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Robinson, M., & Fadali, M. S., & Vollstedt, A., & Wang, E. (2004, June), Middle School Science Using Robotics For Esl Students Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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