Athens, Ga. – A University of Georgia College of Education research team has received a $2.65 million grant from the National Science Foundation to test a new teaching model that improves science learning for middle schools educating English language learners and perhaps for all students.
Led by UGA faculty member Cory Buxton, a professor in the department of educational theory and practice, the project will further explore and demonstrate the effectiveness of the teaching and learning model he and his COE colleagues have developed over the past three years.
Buxton is the principal investigator for the grant-and the project is focused specifically on increasing academic competitiveness among Latino populations as well as other English language learners.
Because of unprecedented growth in the Latino population in the U.S. over the past five decades, the international competitiveness of the nation will depend on the academic success of Latino students, Buxton said. Unfortunately, Latinos’ educational attainment has not kept pace. With Georgia among the top 10 states for fastest-growth in and largest share of Latinos, the need for educating English language learners is a priority.
Buxton and his team worked with students, teachers and parents in three area middle schools to help students improve their science inquiry practices, use academic language in and beyond science class and understand that success in science can lead to broader academic success. The team also designed, tested and refined methods to determine the effectiveness of the teaching-learning model.
“English language learners 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 unsupported immersion in all-English instruction,” Buxton said. “We use a co-teaching model, often used with special education students, which involves an English as a second language teacher collaborating with a content-area teacher.”
In the new four-year study, Buxton and his colleagues will focus on teaching as it influences the critical student transition from middle school to high school. The college’s team will work with select area teachers in grades 7-10 with a focus on life and physical sciences, and an emphasis on biotechnology as a critical science, technology, engineering and mathematics field.
“The middle school to high school transition is a period in which many students lose interest in science, and many English language learners drop out of school,” Buxton said. “Our research will help us understand the aspects of professional learning that can support teachers in helping (these students) learn to use science, engineering and academic language practices to gain college and career-ready skills in science.”
In their previous study, Buxton and his team worked with students, teachers and parents in three area middle schools to help students improve their science inquiry practices, use academic language in and beyond science classes and understand that success in science can lead to broader academic success. The team also designed, tested and refined methods to determine the effectiveness of the teaching-learning model. They are further developing and exploring this method and expanding it for students in the transition years from middle to high school.
In addition to Buxton, the project team includes Martha Allexsaht-Snider, an associate professor in the department of educational theory and practice; Zhenqui Lu, an assistant professor of educational psychology; and Allan Cohen, a professor of educational psychology and director of the college’s Georgia Center for Assessment.