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Abstract

Science performance is determined, to a large extent, by what students already know about science (i.e., science knowledge) and what techniques or methods students use in performing science tasks (i.e., cognitive strategies). This study describes and compares science knowledge, science vocabulary, and cognitive strategy use among four diverse groups of elementary students: (a) monolingual English Caucasian, (b) African-American, (c) bilingual Spanish, and (d) bilingual Haitian Creole. To facilitate science performance in culturally and linguistically congruent settings, the study included student dyads and teachers of the same language, culture, and gender. Science performance was observed using three science tasks: weather phenomena, simple machines, and buoyancy. Data analysis involved a range of qualitative methods focusing on major themes and patterns, and quantitative methods using coding systems to summarize frequencies and total scores. The findings reveal distinct patterns of science knowledge, science vocabulary, and cognitive strategy use among the four language and culture groups. The findings also indicate relationships among science knowledge, science vocabulary, and cognitive strategy use. These findings raise important issues about science instruction for culturally and linguistically diverse groups of students.