Secondary PSTs’ Understanding of A Tri-Focal Approach Integrated in A Science Method Course

Su Gao
Assistant Professor
University of Central Florida

A study of Secondary PSTs’ Understanding of A Tri-Focal Approach Integrated in A Science Method CourseNeed: Reconceptualizing science content and the language of science in the NGSS raises a variety of challenges for students and teachers. Through collaboration between science education, disciplinary literacy, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) faculty, a tri-focal approach was designed and integrated into a science methods course to better prepare secondary preservice teachers (PSTs). Guided Questions: Based on three points of observation in a science methods course, the purpose of this study was to examine 13 PSTs’ understanding of the tri-focal approach to support all students, including English Learners (EL), science learning. Three research questions were explored in this mixed-methods study: RQ1: What do PSTs know about science, second language acquisition, and DL in science classrooms at the beginning of the semester as demonstrated in their belief paper? RQ2: Are there any statistically significant differences between the posttest and pretest scores of lesson plans that rated by the tri-focal rubric? How did PSTs incorporate tri-focal approaches in their group lesson plans to support science teaching and student learning? RQ3: What understanding about the roles of the tri-focal approach in supporting science teaching and student learning do PSTs demonstrate in their reflection paper?Outcomes: First, PSTs demonstrated general understanding of science, second language acquisition, and science-specific literacy in their belief paper. Second, PSTs had higher mean score of the tri-focal measure, higher mean scores in all six dimensions of the tri-focal measure, and higher mean scores in three areas of the tri-focal measure of aggregated six dimensions after the tri-focal intervention in the science methods course than before. Most of lesson plans that designed by the PSTs provided ELs’ accommodations guided by the rubric. However, most of the accommodations and support were at a general level instead of integrating them within specific science teaching and learning activity. Third, PSTs began to develop their understanding of the tri-focal approach for science teaching and learning in their reflection paper. PSTs made more connections between three subject areas, especially how literacy and language support science teaching and learning.Broader Impacts: The primary direct outcomes of the project are 13 PSTs and the public-school students in secondary science classrooms where PSTs are interning. By participating in this research, PSTs will be better prepared to teach science to their future students, including ELs. While NGSS place significant focus on expressing scientific understanding through the use of language and literacy skills, very few new models and approaches have been developed for explicitly connecting support for learning science concepts with support for learning and applying the language of science with ELs in the secondary science teacher education context (Buxton & Caswell; Lyon et al., 2016). The present study adds to this conversation by providing implications for the potential design of science teacher education programs through interdisciplinary collaborations. A successful model and new curriculum created can be applied to other national science teacher preparation programs.


Vassiliki Zygouris-Coe, Joyce Nutta, Haiyan Bai, and Kristina Brendel, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL