Brief Description of Promising Practice or Evidence-Based Innovation
A specialized team within Arizona State University is dedicated to preparing all teachers to support and meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students. The team is comprised of professionals in the field of teaching, diverse learner instruction, special education, coaching, and specific content area expertise (math, science, English language arts, and social studies). Integrating STEM, Literacy, and Language to Prepare all Teachers to Work with English Language Learners: iTeachELLs is a six-year Teacher Quality Partnership funded project.
The iTeachELLs team researched best practices in the area of culturally and linguistically diverse students. Using that research, iTeachELLs developed Problem-Based Enhanced Language Learning (PBELL). PBELL is a unique approach to problem-based learning (PBL) that takes the established PBL pedagogy and enhances the student experience by developing specific language skills. Within a PBELL environment students utilize language collaboratively in order to access prior knowledge, research new topics, brainstorm and discussion potential solutions, and present their findings in front of an appropriate audience
This inquiry-based approach specifically addresses the needs of diverse learners by ensuring students have access to both content and language learning in parallel. This is accomplished by providing opportunities for students to read, write, speak, and listen throughout the PBELL experience and ensures that needed scaffolds are built in. PBELL helps to ensure that language is no longer just a measure of content-specific vocabulary, but rather a way for students of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds and abilities to communicate meaning-making and engage in math, science, or social studies discourse.
Relevant Literature Reviewed, Similar Investigations, Background, and/or Impetus for Developing/Implementing the Innovation
Problem-Based Learning is a pedagogy organized around the investigation, explanation, and resolution of a meaningful problem (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). This educational pedagogy develops content knowledge through a problem-driven structure where students utilize problem solving, critical thinking, and collaborative skills to design and share a solution (Hung, 2015). Also, rooted in constructivist theories, students learn through an open ended, student-centered, experience (Mills, Bonner & Francis, 2006; Moshman, 2017).
Medical schools first implemented Problem-Based Learning in an educational setting in the 1970s. Medical students learned through an instructional sequence beginning with a problem in the form of a posed question, vignette, or simulated patient scenario (Barrows, 1986). Once the problem was introduced, medical students used reasoning skills to identify learning needs. Through self-study, they gained the necessary knowledge and applied that knowledge to solve the problem presented (Albanese and Mitchell, 1993).
Over the years, Problem-Based Learning has become more popular in the K-12 education setting. Additionally, many schools have adapted a similar pedagogy known as Project-Based Learning. This pedagogy originated with William Kilpatrick, an education professor at Georgia College in the early 1900’s. Kilpatrick emphasized child-chosen projects that would stimulate purposeful activities and promote intrinsic motivation in students (Wolk, 1994). Like Problem-Based Learning, in Project-Based Learning students engage in an authentic and challenging learning experience that involves self-directed learning and results in a culminating project or product (Parsons et al., 2010).
Holistically Problem-Based Learning and Project-Based Learning share more similarities than differences. The defining characteristic of Problem-Based Learning is that it starts with a meaningful problem that students are asked to solve and the defining characteristic of Project-Based Learning is that it culminates in a final project shared with an audience. These ideas are not mutually exclusive and can often be found in both Project and Problem-Based Learning experiences. Whether looking at Project- or Problem-Based Learning researchers agree that PBL environments benefit students (Hung, 2015; Wolk, 1994).
Overview of Methods Used to Study the Promising Practice or Innovation
iTeachELLs surveyed over 450 educators to understand the impact PBELL lesson structures have on student learning experiences; specifically how intentional planning for language elevated access to rigorous content. SMART Objectives were developed and data sources were identified and data sources were identified that aligned to the three domains of who we are (beliefs, beings, behaviors).
SMART Objective 1: By the end of the five year project, 85% of participants will recognize PBELL as a change in their instructional practice as measured by a pre/post self assessment.
SMART Objective 2: By the end of the five year project, 85% of participants that attended a PBELL professional development will rate their likelihood of classroom application as likely or highly likely.
SMART Objective 3: By the end of the five year project, 85% of participants that attended a PBELL professional development will be able to develop a real-world meaningful problem as defined by three criteria.
Results of Investigation(s)
Smart Objective 1:
Based on an exit survey, 91% of participants indicated PBELL is a change in their instructional practice. In a post survey three months after attending PBELL professional development, participants rated themselves 15% higher in the post IC Map self-reflection believing their instruction now incorporated both intentional planning for academic language and meaningful real-world problems.
Smart Objective 2:
98% of participants of 426 survey responders are likely or highly likely to implement a PBELL lesson in their classroom.
Smart Objective 3:
79% of educators that completed an iTeachELLs’ PBELL training were able to write a meaningful problem that met the three criteria; The problem is: 1) Relevant to students, 2) Allows for multiple solutions, and 3) Requires new information to solve for the problem.
Greatest Achievement to Date
iTeachELLs has just completed its third year of STEM Camp for 440 elementary education teachers. This camp has three main goals: 1. Teach STEM through problem-based learning, 2. Learn how to use community resources to provide meaningful experiences 3. Understand how to enhance lessons to build discipline-specific academic language
Greatest Challenge to Date
A continued challenge we face is with spread and sustainability as we enter our final year of the grant. We are increasing our presence by sharing newly created lesson plans and modules for teachers on our website and asking for further collaboration from our outside stakeholders.
Link to Relevant Website, Further Information, or Article: https://education.asu.edu/iteachells
High-Need Population(s) & Locations Served
- A high percentage of individuals from families with incomes below the poverty line
- A high teacher turnover rate
Principal Investigator(s): Wendy Farr, Ph.D.
Organizational Affiliation(s): Arizona State University