Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 681–708 | Cite as

Equitable Written Assessments for English Language Learners: How Scaffolding Helps

  • Marcelle A. Siegel
  • Deepika Menon
  • Somnath Sinha
  • Nattida Promyod
  • Cathy Wissehr
  • Kristy L. Halverson


This study investigated the effects of the use of scaffolds in written classroom assessments through the voices of both native English speakers and English language learners from two middle schools. Students responded to assessment tasks in writing, by speaking aloud using think aloud protocols, and by reflecting in a post-assessment interview. The classroom assessment tasks were designed to engage students in scientific sense making and multifaceted language use, as recommended by the Next Generation Science Standards. Data analyses showed that both groups benefitted from the use of scaffolds. The findings revealed specific ways that modifications were supportive in helping students to comprehend, visualize and organize thinking, and elicit responses. This study offers a model for both sensitizing teachers and strengthening their strategies for scaffolding assessments equitably.


Assessment English language learner Scaffolding 



We would like to thank Jerome Shaw for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript and Jenna Krueger and Emily Lloyd for transcription and research assistance through the College of Education honors program. Also, we are grateful to the students and teachers of the participating schools. Partial funding was provided by MU Research Council and Sandra K. Abell’s MU Science Education Center.


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Copyright information

© The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcelle A. Siegel
    • 1
  • Deepika Menon
    • 1
  • Somnath Sinha
    • 1
  • Nattida Promyod
    • 2
  • Cathy Wissehr
    • 3
  • Kristy L. Halverson
    • 4
  1. 1.MU Science Education CenterUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  3. 3.University of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA
  4. 4.University of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA

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