Journal of Elementary Science Education

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 61–79 | Cite as

Improving achievement for linguistically and culturally diverse learners through an inquiry-based earth systems curriculum

  • Julie Lambert
  • Eileen N. Whelan Ariza


This report describes an inquiry-based Earth systems curriculum and strategies for teaching diverse students, which were embedded in the curriculum. The curriculum was implemented with 5th-grade students with varied linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds in five schools in a large, southeastern U.S., urban school district. At the end of the school year, all schools showed statistically significant improvement on two assessments: (1) an Earth systems unit test and (2) a sample of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) items. Students’ perspectives regarding the cognitive and affective domains of the curriculum are discussed as are implications of the findings and recommendations for future research.


Science Teaching Reading Comprehension Literacy Skill English Language Learner English Learner 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aikenhead, G. S. (2001). Integrating western and aboriginal sciences: Cross-cultural science teaching.Research in Science Education, 31(3), 337–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aikenhead, G. S., & Jegede, O. J. (1999). Cross-cultural science education: A cognitive explanation of a cultural phenomenon.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36(3), 269–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amaral, O., Garrison, L., & Klentschy, M. (2002). Helping English learners increase achievement through inquiry based science instruction.Bilingual Research Journal, 26(2), 213–239.Google Scholar
  4. August, D., & Hakuta, K. (Eds.). (1997).Improving schooling for language-minority children: A research agenda. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  5. Banks, J. A., & McGee Banks, C. A. (Eds.). (1997).Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  6. Barba, R. H. (1993). A study of culturally syntonic variables in the bilingual/bicultural science classroom.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30, 1053–1071.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. (1989).New designs for elementary school science and health: A cooperative project of Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) and International Business Machines (IBM). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.Google Scholar
  8. Bredderman, T. (1983). Effects of activity-based elementary science on student outcomes: A quantitative synthesis.Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 499–518.Google Scholar
  9. Carrier, K. A. (2005). Supporting science learning through science literacy objectives for English language learners.Science Activities, 42(2), 5–11.Google Scholar
  10. Chamot, A. U. (1983). Toward a functional ESL curriculum in the elementary school.TESOL Quarterly, 17, 459–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chamot, A. U., & O’Malley, J. M. (1994).The CALLA handbook: Implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  12. Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). (1992).Recommendations for improving the assessment and monitoring of students with limited English proficiency. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  13. Cummins, J. (1981). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In C. F. Leyba (Ed.),School and language minority students: A theoretical framework (pp. 3–49). Los Angeles: Evaluation Dissemination and Assessment Center, California State University, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  14. Cummins, J. (2001).Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education.Google Scholar
  15. Dobb, F. (2004).Essential elements of science instruction for English learners (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: California Science Project.Google Scholar
  16. Donahue, D., Evans, K., & Galguera, T. (2005).Rethinking preparation for content area teaching: The reading apprenticeship approach. Hoboken, NJ: West Ed and Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  17. Echevarria, J., Vogt, M. E., & Short, D. (2004).Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  18. Fellows, N. J. (1994). A window into thinking: Using student writing to understand conceptual change in science learning.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, 985–1001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fradd, S. H., Lee, O., Sutman, F. X., & Saxton, M. K. (2002). Materials development promoting science inquiry with English language learners: A case study.Bilingual Research Journal, 25(4), 479–501.Google Scholar
  20. Freeman, Y. S., Freeman, D. D., & Mercuri, S. (2002).Closing the achievement gap: How to reach limited-formal-schooling and long-term English learners. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  21. García, E. E. (1999).Student cultural diversity: Understanding and meeting the challenge (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.Google Scholar
  22. Gibbons, P. (2003). Mediating language learning: Teacher interactions with ESL students in a content-based classroom.TESOL Quarterly, 37(2), 247–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Golnick, D., & Chin, P. C. (2002).Multicultural education in a pluralistic society (6th ed.) New York: Merrill Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  24. Jones, R. M. (1985). Teaming up.Science and Children, 22(8), 21–23.Google Scholar
  25. Kessler, D., Quinn, M. E., & Fathman, A. K. (1992). Science and cooperative learning for LEP students. In C. Kessler (Ed.),Cooperative language learner: A teacher’s resource book (pp. 65–83). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  26. Krashen, S. D. (1982).Principles and practice in second language acquisition. London: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  27. Ladson-Billings, G. (1994).The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  28. Lambert, J., Lester, B., Lee, O., & Luykx, A. (2007). An Earth systems inquirybased approach reshapes teachers’ beliefs about instruction of diverse students. In D. B. Zanduliet (Ed.).Sustainable communities, sustainable environments. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  29. Lee, O. (2002). Science inquiry for elementary students from diverse backgrounds. In W. G. Secada (Ed.),Review of research in education (Vol. 26, pp. 23–69). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  30. Lee, O. (2003). Equity for culturally and linguistically diverse students in science education: A research agenda.Teachers College Record, 105(3), 465–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lee, O., Deaktor, R., Enders, C., & Lambert, J. (2008). Impact of a multi-year professional development intervention on science achievement of culturally and linguistically diverse elementary students.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(6), 726–747. [Under revision]CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lee, O., & Fradd, S. H. (1998). Science for all, including students from non-English language backgrounds.Educational Researcher, 27(3), 12–21.Google Scholar
  33. Luykx, A., & Lee, O. (2007). Measuring instructional congruence in elementary science classrooms: Pedagogical and methodological components of a theoretical framework.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(3), 424–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maatta, D., Dobb, F., & Ostlund, K. (2006). Strategies for teaching science to English leanners. In A. K. Fathman & D. T. Crowther (Eds.),Science for English language learners: K-12 classroom strategies. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.Google Scholar
  35. Matthews, C. E., & Smith, W. S. (1994). Native American related materials in elementary science instruction:Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(4), 363–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mayer, V. (2002).Global science literacy. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Miles M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1984).Qualitative data analysis: A sourcebook of new methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  38. Moje, E., Collazo, T., Carillo, R., & Marx, R. W. (2001). “Maestro, what is quality?”: Examining competing discourses in project-based science.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(4), 469–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. National Research Council (NRC). (1996).National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  40. NRC (2000).Inquiry and the national science education standards: A guide for teaching and learning. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  41. Ninnes, P. (2000). Representations of indigenous knowledges in secondary school science textbooks in Australia and Canada.International Journal of Science Education, 22(6), 603–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Powell, R. R., & Garcia, J. (1985). The portrayal of minorities and women in selected elementary science series.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 22(6), 519–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pratt, H., & Pratt, N. (2004). Integrating science and literacy instruction with a common goal of learning science content. In E. W. Saul (Ed.),Crossing borders in literacy and science instruction: Perspectives on theory and practice. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.Google Scholar
  44. Rosebery, A. S., Warren, B., & Conant, F. R. (1992). Appropriate scientific discourse: Findings from language minority classrooms.The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21, 61–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Short, D. (1991).How to integrate language and content instruction: A training manual. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.Google Scholar
  46. Snively, G., & Corsiglia, J. (2001). Discovering indigenous science: Implications for science education.Science Education, 85(1), 6–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Thier, H. D., & Daviss, B. (2001).Developing inquiry-based science materials: A guide for educators. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  48. Thier, M., & Daviss, B. (2002).The new science literacy: Using language skills to help students learn science. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  49. Valadez, J. (2002).Dispelling the myth: Is there an effect of inquiry-based science teaching on standardized reading scores? Paper presented at the Second Annual Conference on Sustainability of Systemic Reform.Google Scholar
  50. Westby, C., Dezale, J., Fradd, S. H., & Lee, O. (1999). Learning to do science: Influences of language and culture.Communication Disorders Quarterly, 21(1), 50–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Marine Scinece & Department of Elementary, Middle Level & Literacy EducationUniversity of North Carolina-WilmingtonWilmington
  2. 2.Florida Atlantic UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations