The power of discourse in high school adapted science with English language learning students

Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The significance of teacher and student interactions in classrooms as a means of enacting curricula, analyzing learning gains and embedding classrooms into broader societal power relations needs to be emphasized. In the context of science classes with English language learners (ELLs) in Canadian high schools, language learning and content learning goals are intertwined. In this study, I focused on the question of how I can help ELLs master science literacy, ommunicative literacies, and knowledge-based critical reasoning skills without simplifying the curriculum. I designed and delivered lessons for an adapted (transitional) science class of fourteen grade 10 ELLs over two semesters. I video-recorded all class activities and analyzed the data using the Communicative Approach framework, the Genre Egg framework, the Cognitive Discourse Functions construct, the 5R Instructional Model, and the Teacher Language Awareness construct. My data showed that adopting pedagogical practices via dialogic discursive interactions that create room for different points of view benefited ELLs in acquiring academic literacy. Furthermore, language accommodation did not seem to hinder or shift dialogic discourses into presentation and lecture-style authoritative teaching. However, the data also revealed the challenges of advancing content and language objectives in the same lesson under time constraints and given the reality of teacher training for adapted teachers in science. I argue that raising the content awareness of language teachers and the language awareness of content teachers has the potential to promote a genre-based, dialogic pedagogical approach in legitimizing learners' views while offering access to dominant science perspectives in order to help ELLs develop criticality and maintain science identities as valued members of a high school science community. I reflect on the challenges in doing this and some of the strategies to overcome them. I conclude that the future of adapted teaching needs to endorse rigour as opposed to simplifying content, promote dialogicity instead of unilateral information-giving, utilize learners' diverse pools of knowledge and experiences rather than leave them out of the curriculum, teach text-in-context as opposed to isolated language lessons, and foster critical thinking via reasoning and argumentation of today's global issues to truly benefit language learners in developing science literacy.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Ilieva, Roumiana
Thesis advisor: Lin, Angel
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