Dual Language SchoolsSTEM and DL programs: A call for equity and social justice

Author Photo: Marialuisa Di Stefano

Photo for: STEM and DL programs: A call for equity and social justice

Do all teachers in dual language (DL) programs teach STEM content in the partner language? How does the content-time allocation plan work in different programs? Through my research and the literature related to the field of STEM and DL education, I found out that, in many cases, teachers in DL programs focus on the development of language skills, both in English and in the partner language, before engaging students in STEM content knowledge and reasoning. On the contrary, a growing body of research suggests that English learners’ literacy development and scientific thinking and complex scientific content should not be separated (Stoddart, Pinal, Latzke, & Canaday, 2002). I believe this is especially true for DL programs, where emergent bilinguals should receive equitable STEM instructions in both English and the partner language.

In a longitudinal study, in which the researchers implemented a blended inquiry science and English Language Development (ELD) program, Gomez Zwiep and Straits (2013) found that “allowing consistent time for science instruction that incorporates ELD instruction along with inquiry science experiences may provide the authentic and purposeful context students need to develop new language without restricting access to science content” (p. 1315). If this is true for ELD class, it is even more relevant in DL programs where language and contents are taught at once. However, to do that, DL teachers need training in both STEM and language development.

The lack of training of teachers in DL programs inspired the work I am doing, along with the colleagues Dr. Idalis Villanueva (Utah State University) and Dr. Alberto Esquinca (San Diego State University), on the integration of language instruction and STEM content knowledge. Teachers in DL programs are not adequately supported in the development of instructional strategies needed to effectively teach STEM content in the supporting language (Di Stefano, Villanueva, & Esquinca, 2019; Esquinca et al., 2018). Most resources and instructional practices are still primarily offered in English or need to be adapted to other languages by DL teachers, most of whom do not have training in STEM education. This creates an equity issue; emergent bilinguals are underserved through programs that focus on literacy development which is disconnected from STEM knowledge. Staff quality and professional development of DL educators are considered key elements for the success of a DL education program (Guerrero & Lachance, 2018; Howard et al., 2018). However, very often, DL teacher preparation programs place more emphasis on the development of the partner language literacy skills and seldom consider its integration with content knowledge from different disciplines such as STEM.

STEM DL program development and DL teachers training is also the focus on my contribution to the 2019 La Cosecha conference. Along with colleagues Dr. Ivanna Mann Thrower Anderson (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction) and Dr. Joan Lachance (University of North Carolina), I will explore how states and higher education institutions can collaborate to strengthen and expand DL programs.

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Stoddart, T., Pinal, A., Latzke, M., & Canaday, D. (2002). Integrating inquiry science and language development for English language learners. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39, 664–687

Gomez Zwiep, S. & Straits, W. J. (2013) Inquiry Science: The Gateway to English Language Proficiency, Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24:8, 1315-1331, DOI: 10.1007/s10972-013-9357-9

Di Stefano, M., Villanueva, I., & Esquinca, E. (2019). Promoting STEM education in dual language education programs. Seventh International Conference on Immersion and Dual Language Education, Charlotte, NC, February 6-9, 2019.

Esquinca, A., de la Piedra, M. T., & Herrera-Rocha, L. (2018). Hegemonic language practices in engineering design and dual language education. Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, 12(2). 44-68.

Guerrero, M., & Lachance, J. (2018). The National Dual Language Education Teacher Preparation Standards. Albuquerque, NM: Dual Language Education of New Mexico.

Howard, E. R., Lindholm-Leary, K. J., Rogers, D., Olague, N., Medina, J., Kennedy, D., Sugarman, J., & Christian, D. (2018). Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.