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Bilingual Language Supports in Online Science Inquiry Environments

Abstract

Research over the past fifteen years has investigated and developed online science inquiry environments to support students engaging in authentic scientific inquiry practices. This research has focused on developing activity structures and tools to scaffold students in engaging in different aspects of these practices. Relatively little research, however, has focused on incorporating linguistic supports for English language learners (or other second language learners) studying science in their non-native language. These students are therefore learning both science and the academic language in their second language. This study investigates the potential value to 8th grade Spanish-speaking English language learners of an environment that provides them access to the content and supports in both English and Spanish as opposed to an English-only format. Student learning outcomes on an immediate post-test in English, a delayed post-test in English, a delayed post-test in Spanish, and a written essay in English in the form of a letter to the governor are compared between the two conditions. The outcomes suggest significant benefits for the Spanish-speaking English language learners on all of the post-tests. The findings of this study carry important policy implications in light of the growing English-only political movements in the United States.

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