School Science or Disciplinary Science? Discourse Encountered and Practiced by English Language Learners in an International High School Science Classroom
By: June Wan Wai
Published: 10/17/2012
Uploaded: 12/07/2017
Uploaded by: Pocket Masters
Pockets: 2012 (October) Teachers College Columbia University Ed.D. Dissertations, Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: content and language, context, disciplinary science, discourse, School Science, situated learning theory

Description/Abstract: Despite the increased promotion of integrated language and content instruction, large gaps in academic achievement persist between English language learners (ELLs) and their English-proficient peers (New York State Education Department, 2011c). In this study, I employ practitioner research methods to investigate ELLs’ experiences in an extracurricular science classroom at an International High School. Participants included 10th grade ELLs with diverse first languages (i.e., Bangla, Chinese, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese) who attended a series of extracurricular Saturday science classes taught by myself, an ESL educator. My data comprised mainly of video recordings documenting ELLs’ review of a state-mandated Living Environment lab assignment. The use of situated learning theory as an analytic frame yielded insights undetected when applying a cognitivist lens alone but perceptible when applying sociocultural precepts that regard “language” and “content” as inseparable and learning as an apprenticeship into particular communities of practice. In my analysis, the “language” and “content” emerging from this classroom was re-characterized as discourse and then described in terms of the alignment with practices of “ disciplinary science” or “ school science,” and in some instances, both. This account contributes empirical support for the relationship theorized to exist between “language” and “content” (Barwell, 2005). Findings also suggest that science classroom discourse encountered and practiced by ELLs can be more generally characterized as approximating the practices of “disciplinary science” or exemplifying those of “school science,” and more specifically described in relation to the need for speed, the place for ambiguity, the locus of authority, the role of social interaction,and the object of reproduction. This portrayal of ELLs’ academic experiences (a) departs from research and pedagogy critiqued for their limitations associated with deficit views imposed on immigrant youth (Rolstad, 2005), cognitivist assumptions about learning as simply “language acquisition” or “knowledge transmission” (Walqui, 2002), and privileging of verbocentric forms of academic participation (Siegel, 1995); and (b) motivates re-interpretations of academic classroom practices of ELLs and their educators.