Program Rationale

Why “Linking” Science, Literacy and Mathematics?

The need for such well-established disciplinary 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).

Science and engineering also require sophisticated mathematical knowledge and skills to solve problems, reason abstractly and quantitatively, to develop and use models, and for evidence to construct viable arguments and critique reasoning. As described by Lemke 1: “When scientists think, talk, write, work and teach …they do not just use words; …they combine, interconnect, and integrate verbal text with mathematical expressions, quantitative graphs, information tables, abstract diagrams, maps, drawings, photographs, and a host of unique specialized visual genres seen nowhere else” (p.88).

Overlapping Practices in Mathematics, Science and ELA

Why Argumentation?

Focusing on scientific argumentation has positive effects on student achievement and conceptual understanding 6. Though the NGSS and CCSS have moved educators in the direction of evidence-based argumentation, teachers find that engaging students in argumentation is a challenge 7. The program provides teachers with instructional resources and practice in scientific argumentation about valid and invalid reasoning to deepen understanding of such argumentation.

More information about the role of argumentation in Science, Literacy, and Mathematics

Is “Disciplinary Literacy” relevant in my instruction?

Furthermore, the collaborative discourse and argumentation practices important for science and engineering also require rich disciplinary language understanding and use 9-13. Learning these disciplinary literacy skills and practices in grades 6-12 is inextricably linked to participating in post-secondary education, to participation in today’s workplace and to society 14,15.

Although in U.S. middle schools teaching science and engineering disciplinary literacy skills is a shared responsibility of science, mathematics and English language arts (ELA) teachers, this is not well recognized and too often, little instructional collaboration occurs 16. However, when teachers are provided with additional training and support, it can make a difference – for students and teachers alike17.  

Do All Students in My Classroom Need to Engage in “Complex Text”?

However, it is challenging engaging students in complex text, for most school textbooks are insufficiently complex and few supplementary 6-8 grade band complex texts exist for science and engineering9, 18, 19. Further, as noted by Litman and Greenleaf20: “Reducing the complexity of texts and the effort required of students to make sense of them may similarly compromise student learning from text-based argumentation” (p. 110).

Although many students, especially diverse learners including student with disabilities and English second language learners, have trouble accessing complex grade-level texts, avoiding complex text or only using texts at a lower grade level that lack sufficient complexity is problematic. As Shanahann (2019) poignantly notes, avoidance in complex text for diverse learners would result in “no opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills that would enable them to catch up21 (p.22). And, as Shanahan also noted, that “students are so aware that they are being relegated to the ‘dumb books,’ with serious consequences for their self-esteem” (p. 22). 

  1. Lemke JL. Talking science: language, learning, and values. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Pub. Corp.; 1990.
  2. Kuhn D. Teaching and learning science as argument. Sci Educ. 2010;94(5):810-24.
  3. Böttcher F, Meisert A. Argumentation in Science Education: A Model-based Framework. Science & Education. 2011;20(2):103-40.
  4. Henderson JB, McNeill KL, González-Howard M, Close K, Evans M. Key challenges and future directions for educational research on scientific argumentation. J Res Sci Teach. 2018;55(1):5-18.
  5. Henderson JB, MacPherson A, Osborne J, Wild A. Beyond Construction: Five arguments for the role and value of critique in learning science. International Journal of Science Education. 2015;37(10):1668-97.
  6. Okumus S, Unal S. The Effects of Argumentation Model on Students’ Achievement and Argumentation Skills in Science. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2012;46:457-61.
  7. Erduran S, Jimenez-Alexaindre M, editors. Argumentation in Science Education: Springer; 2007.
  8. Norris SP, Phillips LM. How literacy in its fundamental sense is central to scientific literacy. Sci Educ. 2003;87(2):224-40.
  9. Fang Z, Lamme L, Pringle R, Patrick J, Sanders J, Zmach C, Charbonnet S, Henkel M. Integrating Reading into Middle School Science: What we did, found and learned. International Journal of Science Education. 2008;30(15):2067-89.
  10. Council NR. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2012.
  11. Michaels S, O’Connor C, Resnick LB. Deliberative Discourse Idealized and Realized: Accountable Talk in the Classroom and in Civic Life. Studies in Philosophy and Education. 2008;27(4):283-97.
  12. Hines PJ, Wible B, McCartney M. Learning to Read, Reading to Learn. Science. 2010;328(5977):447-.
  13. Osborne J. Arguing to Learn in Science: The Role of Collaborative, Critical Discourse. Science. 2010;328(5977):463-6.
  14. Hines PJ, Wible B, McCartney M. Learning to Read, Reading to Learn. Science. 2010;328(5977):447-.
  15. National Academies of Sciences E, Medicine. Developing a National STEM Workforce Strategy: A Workshop Summary. Alper J, editor. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2016.
  16. Council NR. Literacy for Science: Exploring the Intersection of the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core for ELA Standards: A Workshop Summary. Rhodes H, Feder MA, editors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2014.
  17. Brownell MT, Pajares F. Teacher Efficacy And Perceived Success In Mainstreaming Students With Learning And Behavior Problems. Teacher Education and Special Education. 1999;22(3):154-64.
  18. National Academies of Sciences E, and Medicine. English Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives. Washington, D.C. : National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.; 2018
  19. Council NR. Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Singer SR, Nielsen NR, Schweingruber HA, editors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2012.