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University of Houston - FY 2005 Award Abstact

Topic: English Language Learners
Principal Investigator: Dr. David Francis
National Research and Development Center for English Language Learners

The National Research and Development Center for English Language Learners will conduct a program of research designed to address specific challenges in the education of English language learners in the middle grades (Grades 4-8).

Most English language learners confront the challenge of studying and being tested on grade-level curricula in a new language at the same time they are learning that language. This is not only difficult for the students themselves but also for their teachers, few of whom have had specific professional development on effective approaches for delivering content instruction to students who are not proficient in the language of instruction.

The center's focused program of research consists of work in two complementary areas. The first area of research consists of a series of targeted experimental studies that seek to unravel critical issues for English-language learners and their teachers. Three of the issues to be examined in years 1-4 of the grant are: 1) the efficacy of incorporating English-as-a-second language enhancements into traditional effective comprehension instruction; 2) the role of teacher-guided instruction compared with teacher-guided instruction that also incorporates student group work; and 3) the benefits of modifying narrative and expository text to make them more comprehensible to English language learners.

The second broad area of research involves a popular model for the delivery of content area instruction to English language learners, the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol or SIOP Model. This model incorporates best practices for teaching academic English and provides teachers with a coherent approach for improving the achievement of their students. Research to be conducted by the National Research and Development Center for English Language Learners will test the effects of the SIOP Model on student academic success in two specific subject areas with high language demands - science and social studies. In a series of randomized controlled studies, the center is examining whether the SIOP Model has a significant impact on the acquisition of science concepts and vocabulary development among English language learners in upper elementary and middle school. The final element of the research plan is to develop an integrative model that draws on findings from both broad areas and attempts to integrate them into a comprehensive SIOP Model, which will then be evaluated via a large-scale, randomized study in year 5.

In addition, a supplemental program of research is being developed in the areas of assessment accommodations for English language learners; interventions for students that are literate in their native language and have been in the United States two years or less; and the efficacy of a computer-based parent intervention program aimed at involving parents in their children's literacy development.

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Last Modified: 10/04/2005