UH Researchers, Middle School Teachers ‘RESET’ Science Class in Support of Students Learning English

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With increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in schools in Texas, many educators are challenged to make meaningful connections between school science lessons and students’ life experiences outside the classroom. A new federally funded research project at the University of Houston’s College of Education may soon give middle school students a better chance of overcoming some of the barriers to success.

In a program called RESET—Related Experiences in Science Education in Language Translation—researchers are redesigning science lessons with a focus on emergent bilingual middle school students. In other words, they focus on students in grades 6-8 who are learning English at school and are engaged in their family’s language and culture at home.

The RESET program redesigns science lessons to honor the needs of middle school students struggling to learn English at home while being immersed in their family’s language and culture.
Photo: Katerina Homes / Pexels

“We focus on those grade levels because the middle school years are often when students feel that spark of inspiration in science classes. Our goal is to remove the language and cultural barriers that can dampen that joy of discovery for certain students,” said Ji Zhang, associate professor of bilingual/ESL education and principal investigator of the research project.

A series of studies, a collaboration of the UH College of Education and Aleph Independent School District, where 44 percent of the student population is emergent bilingual, was funded by $1.9 million in National Science Foundation Discovery Research PreK- over four years. 12 program. The DRK-12 program seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science (STEM) in pre-kindergarten and pre-kindergarten teachers through research and development of STEM educational innovations and approaches.

“Our project brings together faculty from two programs in the UH College of Education – Bilingual Education and Science Education – to work elbow-to-elbow with teachers to redesign science lessons that connect to students’ everyday lives and culture. “The whole class, emergent bilingual students and others, will better understand how science and engineering work in everyday life,” said UH Distinguished Professor and co-principal investigator of the project, Alberto J.

Rather than a traditional science classroom with a teacher, RESET’s curriculum is driven by middle school students’ curiosity about inquiry and the STEM careers they can envision for their futures. The study evaluates the impact on students, as well as the impact of the jointly designed science courses on teaching and learning in schools.

“Through this four-year journey, a theory-based and field-tested curriculum integrates students’ home languages ​​and cultures to make science an active learning experience,” said CC Wong, associate professor and associate principal for science education. The project.

Lessons developed by the team will be shared with researchers and school districts interested in adapting them into their teacher professional development programs. Joining UH’s Zhang, Rodriguez and Wong on the research team is Illinois State University professor May Jadallah.

President Renu Kator has made doubling UH’s research output a strategic priority for the university to fulfill its obligations to the city and the state.

“We are thrilled to receive NSF’s support for this critical project,” said Jason Smith, UHI’s vice president of government and community relations. “A large amount of federal funding of this magnitude will help ensure UH research is on the national stage, and it will also keep the minds of our federal legislators in mind that great things are happening on our campus and in our community, thanks to the University of Houston.”

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