Program Information

Learning science requires sophisticated literacy skills such as accessing scientific terminology and text genre, interpreting data, engaging in interpretive and critical reading, comprehending and critiquing scientific principles and reading and writing explanations. The need for such well-established literacy skills in STEM education are acknowledged by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards for English/language arts-technical subjects (CCSS-ELA.RST).

The shift from learning to read to reading to learn typically begins in the 4th grade. Then textbooks become students’ primary STEM reading materials and students are expected to demonstrate learning via reports and projects. By middle school, students are expected to use significant literacy skills to develop further STEM content knowledge. Furthermore, for students to simultaneously learn how to read about and do inquiry science, they must use and understand complex grade-level texts, but these are not being provided in most classrooms. Standard textbooks are not suitably complex and alternatives are not available. Consequently, two-thirds of U.S. middle school students are not reading at a proficient level. This greatly limits STEM learning, and underachievement in STEM is particularly severe for diverse learners – those with disabilities, at-risk for school failure, and/or from culturally, socio-economically or linguistically diverse backgrounds.

To address these needs, Linking Science & Literacy for All Learners is developing innovative multimodal STEM text sets, linked inquiry and teacher professional development. A multimodal STEM text set is a coherent sequence of texts and materials pertaining to a specific STEM topic or line of inquiry that supports diverse learners in building the vocabulary and background knowledge required for reading comprehension, grounded in evidence. The topic or line of inquiry of the text set is determined by an anchor text – a rich, complex grade-level text that has accompanying scaffolded instructional supports and linked science inquiry. The subsidiary scaffolding texts, multimodal materials and inquiry depend on resource availability and the needs of the students. By meaningfully connecting the anchor text, subsidiary texts, multimodal materials and inquiry, diverse learners are provided support required to build knowledge and/or vocabulary and literacy skills so as to be able to master the NGSS and CCSS-ELA.RST Performance Expectations.

The primary aims of the program, guided by teachers’ input about content, are to:

Aim 1:  Develop 6th– to 8th-grade-level STEM multimodal text sets and linked inquiry activities to address commonalities in Science and English Language Arts Practices delineated by Missouri Learning Standards (MLS), NGSS and Common Core English Language Arts Standards.

Aim 2:  Provide instructional support for using the STEM multimodal text sets and linked inquiry activities, with special attention to the needs of diverse learners.

In fulfilling these aims, we offer annual professional development workshops and academic year support for 6th-8th grade Science, English Language Arts and Special Education teachers from Missouri.

The focus of professional development is in two main areas:

  • Development of and use of STEM multimodal text sets and linked inquiry.
  • Evidence-based practices for teaching diverse learners.

What is a multimodal text set?

    • A text set is a collection of related texts from different genres, media and levels of reading difficulty, organized around a topic or line of inquiry.
    • The line of inquiry of a given set is determined by an anchor text – a rich, complex grade-level text.
    • The number of texts in a set can vary depending on purpose and resource availability around a given topic. What is important is that the texts in the set are connected meaningfully to each other to deepen student understanding of the anchor text.
    • They are strategically sequenced to build vocabulary and knowledge, with the aim of supporting diverse learners in reading high quality, complex grade level texts.

In Year 1, program teachers worked with a multimodal text set titled Flight of the Bumblebee, which addresses the use of sound waves to monitor bees and pollination. In this text set, we integrate literacy and STEM to help students appreciate how science and engineering principles are used to develop solutions to a significant problem – the decline of bee populations worldwide. The anchor text has been adapted from a peer-reviewed scientific article describing ongoing research at the University of Missouri {(Miller-Struttmann, N. E., Heise, D., Schul, J., Geib, J. C., & Galen, C. (2017). Flight of the bumble bee: Buzzes predict pollination services. PloS one, 12(6), e0179273)}. Students are required to practice close reading of the grade-level complex text with supports provided by the text set and linked inquiry, and use Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (CER) to respond to scenario based assessments.

In Year 2, program teachers worked with a multimodal text set titled Earth and Human Body Systems, which addresses the impact of climate change in the Midwest upon heat stress experienced by humans. In this text set we integrate literacy and STEM to help students understand foundations of modeling Earth’s systems and how that information can guide human activity so as to lessen the projected impacts of climate change. The anchor text has been adapted from a recent peer-reviewed scientific article about ongoing research at Iowa State University {Steinweg, C and Gutowski, W.J. (2015); Projected Changes in Greater St. Louis Summer Heat Stress in NARCCAP Simulations: Weather, Climate, and Society; April, 2015:159-167}. Students are required to practice close reading of the grade-level complex text with supports provided by the text set and linked inquiry, and use Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (CER) to respond to scenario based assessments.

In Year 3, program teachers will work with a new multimodal text set titled From Molecules to Organisms: How vaping harms your cardiovascular system, which addresses the impact of nicotine and vaping on health. In this text set we integrate literacy and STEM to help students understand the scientific evidence that vaping and smoking are especially harmful, even in small amounts. The anchor text has been adapted from a recent peer-reviewed scientific article about ongoing research at University of California at Los Angeles {(Middlekauff, H.R. (2019) Cardiovascular impact of electronic-cigarette use, Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, June 14, 2019 9:31)}. Students are required to practice close reading of the grade-level complex text with supports provided by the text set and linked inquiry, and use Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (CER) to respond to scenario based assessments.

 

Professional Development Program: The year-long professional development will involve an orientation session (Saturday) in spring, a weeklong summer workshop, and 4 workdays during the academic year. The focus of each component is summarized in the table below:

Summer Professional Development Academic Year
Orientation Session (1 day) Summer Workshop (5 days) Follow-up Workdays (4)
Focus of orientation:

  • Meet participants and introduce goals of professional development.
  • Identify target content area and form teams for inquiry activities and text set(s).
  • Assign tasks for 5-day workshop (e.g., readings about content area, locating resources).
July 13 – 17, 2020
Focus of workshop:

  • Identify  materials and develop text sets (2 per year)
  • Linked inquiry activities
  • Develop implementation plans
  • Identify and learn about instructional practices to support diverse learners
August – May
Focus of sessions:

  • Share implementation practices, challenges and solutions; identify additional practices
  • Refine text sets and linked inquiry activities

 

Professional Development Faculty; The professional development will be facilitated by:

  • Dr. William Folk; Professor, Biochemistry, University of Missouri
  • Dr. Delinda van Garderen; Professor, Special Education, University of Missouri
  • Dr. Amy Lannin; Associate Professor, English Education; Director of Campus Writing Program, University of Missouri
  • Dr. Torrey Palmer; Consultant in Literacy, Teaching and Curriculum