Campus News

UGA education researchers receive $515,756 NSF grant to work with English language learners, familie

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia education researchers have received a $515,756 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a model for improving science teaching and learning for middle school English language learners.

Cory Buxton and Martha Allexsaht-Snider, associate professors in the College of Education’s department of elementary and social studies education, and Allan Cohen, director of the Georgia Center for Assessment, are collaborating on the three-year project to work with teachers, English language learners and their families from Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School in Clarke County and East Hall and West Hall Middle Schools in Hall County to improve student achievement.

Between 1992 and 2002, the ELL student population in Georgia rose more than 350 percent. The three middle schools chosen for the project are representative of the changing demographics in the state.

Teachers, students and parents will work together to develop and improve their science inquiry practices, their use of academic language in and beyond science class, and their understanding of the role that success in science can play in broader academic success. The researchers will develop and test instruments for measuring the implementation and effectiveness of this model.

“ELL students are often pulled out of class to learn conversational English and miss their grade-level content classes, or they are left to sink or swim with immersion in all-English instruction,” said Buxton. “We are using a co-teaching model, often used with special education students, that has an English-as-a-second-language teacher collaborating with a content-area teacher.”

The researchers will conduct workshops for teachers, as well as workshops for families in which the teachers learn alongside their students and their students’ parents.

“Traditionally, the teacher is in the power position relative to parents and students,” said Buxton. “With this model of family workshops, everyone is on equal footing, and the relationships develop differently.”

One of the components of the project is a series of family science workshops held for Burney-Harris-Lyon students, their parents and their teachers on Saturdays at the UGA campus. UGA buses transport families and teachers to one of the science facilities on campus, where the group engages in several science activities and conversations about strategies and supports for academic success.The group is treated to lunch in one of the UGA dining halls and then returned to the school.

Buxton serves as the middle school education program coordinator for his department. He published two books this year. He co-authored Diversity and Equity in Science Education: Research, Policy, and Practice with Okhee Lee, a professor of teaching and learning at the University of Miami.He also released the second edition of Teaching Science in Elementary and Middle School: A Cognitive and Cultural Approach with Eugene F. Provenzo Jr., another professor of teaching and learning at the University of Miami.

Buxton joined the UGA faculty in 2008. He received his Ph.D. in instruction and curriculum and his science education degree from the University of Colorado in 2000.

Allexsaht-Snider joined the UGA faculty in 1991. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in cross-cultural education. She is a former bilingual teacher and teacher of English as a second language. She has evaluated and conducted research with a number of National Science Foundation projects designed to improve mathematics teaching and learning, such as Math and Parent Partnerships in the Southwest, Program for [Systemic] Reform in Mathematics Education, and Improving Mathematics Education in Diverse Classrooms.

Cohen joined the UGA faculty in 2003. He earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology and measurement from the University of Iowa.

For more information on the UGA College of Education’s department of elementary and social studies education, see