Learning to Teach Inquiry: A Beginning Science Teacher of English Language Learners

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Abstract

Early career science teachers are often assigned to classrooms with high numbers of English language learners (ELLs). For the underprepared early career science teacher, these circumstances are challenging. This study examines the changes in beliefs and practices of an early career science teacher who taught high numbers of ELLs in an urban setting. Victoria participated in the Alternative Support for Induction Science Teachers (ASIST) program during her initial two years of teaching. Our research team followed her over a three-year period, and the data collected included classroom observations and interviews about her beliefs and practices. In addition, documents such as teacher evaluations and classroom artifacts were collected periodically for the purpose of triangulation. The analysis of the data revealed that with the support of the ASIST program, Victoria implemented inquiry lessons and utilized instructional materials that promoted language and science competencies for her ELLs. Conversely, standardized testing and her teaching assignment played a role in constraining the implementation of inquiry-based practices. The results of this study call for collaborative efforts between university science educators and school administrators to provide professional development opportunities and support to build the capacity of early career science teachers of ELLs.

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