How does inquiry-based learning affect attitudes towards science of first grade English language learners?

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


English Language Learners in fourth and fifth grade often express poor attitudes towards science class due to limited English. Lack of English rather than science content knowledge seems to be the deterrent for their success on formal science assessments. I worked with first grade English Language Learners using inquiry-based learning to improve students' attitudes towards science class. Students were engaged in open-ended, student-centered language building activities. Students constructed their own knowledge in teams and explored topics they felt interesting. Quantitatively there was not a significant difference in the students' academic performance. Comparing the inquiry-based learning with a more "traditional" teacher-centered, scripted approach, there was a statistically significant difference in the students' attitudes towards the inquiry-based lessons. English Language Learners need this less formal approach where they can work together to build their knowledge. Working cooperatively, the students practice the informal science language associated with the content without the added pressure of speaking up in front of the teacher or the whole class. Teachers of English Language Learners should expand their own content knowledge as well as work towards being an inquiry-based teacher to provide less stressful learning environment for their Limited English students.




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