JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING VOL. 39, NO. 8, PP. 664–687 (2002)
Integrating Inquiry Science and Language Development for
English Language Learners
Trish Stoddart, America Pinal, Marcia Latzke, Dana Canaday
215 Crown College, 1156 High Street, University of California, Santa Cruz,
Santa Cruz, California 95064
Received 29 February 2000; Accepted 9 May 2002
Abstract: The traditional approach to the education of language minority students separates English
language development from content instruction because it is assumed that English language proﬁciency
is a prerequisite for subject matter learning. The authors of this article take the alternate view that the
integration of inquiry science and language acquisition enhances learning in both domains. The report
describes a conceptual framework for science – language integration and the development of a ﬁve-level
rubric to assess teachers’ understanding of curricular integration. The science– language integration
rubric describes the growth of teacher expertise as a continuum from a view of science and language as
discreet unrelated domains to the recognition of the superordinate processes that create a synergistic
relationship between inquiry science and language development. Examples from teacher interviews
are used to illustrate teacher thinking at each level. ß2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 39:
664– 687, 2002
Over the past decade the number of language minority students in the United States has
increased dramatically. Across the nation there are between 3.5 million and 5 million school age
students whose primary language is not English (Council of Chief State School Ofﬁcers, 1990;
Macias, 1998). Almost 70% of these students are being educated in just ﬁve states—California,
New York, Illinois, Florida, and Texas (August & Hakuta, 1997). The context for this study is
California, where there are currently over 1.4 million K– 12 English language learners, the
majority of whom are Latino (California Department of Education, 1998). Although California is
enriched by this linguistic and cultural diversity, it poses signiﬁcant challenges for the education of
students from diverse language backgrounds and their teachers.
The education of English language learners is complex because it involves teaching academic
subjects to students while they are developing a second language (Rosebery, Warren, & Conant,
1992). The dominant instructional approach separates the teaching of English language from the
Correspondence to: Trish Stoddart; E-mail: email@example.com
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
ß2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
teaching of academic content because it is assumed that proﬁciency in English is a prerequisite for
learning subject matter (Collier, 1989; Cummins, 1981; Met, 1994). This is problematic because it
may take as long as 7 years to acquire a level of language proﬁciency comparable to native
speakers (Collier, 1989; Cummins, 1981). English language learners fall behind academically if
they do not learn the content of the curriculum as they acquire English.
The result is that the majority of language minority students do not have access to rigorous
subject matter instruction or the opportunity to develop academic language—the specialized,
cognitively demanding language functions and structures that are needed to understand,
conceptualize, symbolize, discuss, read, and write about topics in academic subjects (Cummins,
1981; Lacelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994; McGroaty, 1992; Minicucci & Olsen, 1992; Oakes, 1990;
Pease-Alvarez & Hakuta, 1992). In most English Language Development (ELD) classes, English
language learners acquire basic social communication skills but less readily acquire the complex
subject-speciﬁc language skills required for academic success. Academic subjects, such as
science, have a linguistic register—norms and patterns of language use essential to the practice of
the discipline (Halliday, 1978). The science register uses academic language features that include
formulating hypotheses, proposing alternative solutions, describing, classifying, using time and
spatial relations, inferring, interpreting data, predicting, generalizing, and communicating
ﬁndings (Chamot & O’Malley, 1986; National Science Teachers Association, 1991). The use of
these language functions is fundamental to the process of inquiry science (National Research
Council [NRC], 1996).
Unfortunately, most language minority students are relegated to remedial instructional
programs focusing on the acquisition of basic skills that supposedly match their English-
proﬁciency level (Garcia, 1988, 1993; Moll, 1992). It is not surprising that the academic progress
of language minority students is signiﬁcantly behind that of their native English-speaking peers.
The most recently published National Association for Educational Progress report (National
Center for Education Statistics, 2000) shows that in core academic subjects—mathematics,
science, and reading—the scores of Latino students are on average 20 points below those of White
One solution is to teach academic subjects to English language learners in their native
language while they acquire English language proﬁciency (Cummins, 1989; Garcia, 1997).
However, a chronic shortage of bilingual teachers, particularly those who are also qualiﬁed to
teach subject matter such as science or mathematics, means that few English language learners
receive content instruction in their primary language (California Department of Education, 1998).
In addition, English-only legislation in California now prohibits the teaching of academic subjects
in English language learners’ primary language (Proposition 227, 1998).
An alternative approach is to integrate the teaching of academic subjects with second
language acquisition (Baker & Saul, 1994; Casteel & Isom, 1994; Lee & Fradd, 1998; Mohan,
1990; Rosebery et al., 1992; Snow, Met, & Genesee, 1991). The thesis of this article is that inquiry-
based science is a particularly powerful instructional context for the integration of academic
content and language development for English language learners. The development and use of
language functions such as describing, predicting, hypothesizing, reasoning, explaining, and
reﬂecting, parallel the processes used in the learning of science (Casteel & Isom, 1994; Lee &
Fradd, 1998; Tough, 1985). Inquiry science, which promotes students’ construction of meaning
through exploration of scientiﬁc phenomenon, observations, experiments, and hands-on activities,
provides an authentic context for language use (NRC, 1996).
Prior work on the integration of science with other subjects has focused on the integration of
mathematics and science (Huntley, 1998; Woodbury, 1998) or the integration of science with
reading and writing (Baker & Saul, 1994; Casteel & Isom, 1994; Gaskins, Guthrie, Satlow,
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 665
Ostertag, Six, Byrne, & Connor, 1994; Glynn & Muth, 1994; Keys, 1994; Rivard,1994). Analyses
of issues related to the integration of second language development with inquiry instruction are in
the early stages (Fradd & Lee, 1999). The contribution of this report is the description of a
conceptual framework for integrating English language development with inquiry science and the
development of a rubric to assess teachers’ understanding of curriculum integration. The research
focuses on how teachers perceive the connections between inquiry science instruction and
language development as it relates to the education ofEnglish language learners. The two primary
research questions are: (a) How do teachers conceive of science language integration? and (b)
What are the cognitive demands that underlie the development of teacher expertise in domain
integration? The literature on curriculum domain integration, the development of expertise in
teaching, and cognitive complexity are used as a framework for a rubric that describes science–
language integration as a continuum from isolated domain-speciﬁc instruction to fully-integrated
synergistic instruction with the emphasis on commonalties in structure and process across
The Integration of Inquiry Science and Language Development
English language development involves learning to speak, read, and write in a second
language. This includes the learning of vocabulary, syntax, and lexical grammar, and the use of
language in both social and academic situations. Research on second language immersion
programs ﬁnds that contextualized, content-based instruction in students’ second language can
enhance the language proﬁciency of English language learners with no detriment to their
academic learning (Cummins, 1981; Genesee, 1987; Lambert & Tucker, 1972; McKeon, 1994;
Met, 1994; Swain & Lapkin, 1985). The subject matter content provides a meaningful context for
the learning of language structure and functions; and the language processes provide the medium
for analysis and communication of subject matter knowledge.
The context of language use refers to the degree to which language provides learners with
meaningful cues that help them interpret the content being communicated—visual cues, concrete
objects, and hands-on activities. In primary language development, children begin to understand
utterances by relating them to sensory motor activities and the physical context (Krashen, 1985).
In the development of a second language this relationship needs to be explicitly communicated in
instruction. The use of language in the teaching of school subjects, however, is often decon-
textualized. Context-reduced or decontextualized language occurs when there is little other than
the spoken language to provide information (McKeon, 1994). Examples include lectures, many of
which provide little or no support for meaning; or students reading a book with no illustrations,
having only the text to rely on to facilitate comprehension. This poses particular problems for
students developing English language proﬁciency who rely heavily on context cues to understand
a lesson. Because much of school language is context-reduced, English language learners often
ﬁnd themselves in a world of meaningless words.
Inquiry science instruction engages students in the exploration of scientiﬁc phenomena, and
language activities are explicitly linked to objects, processes, hands-on experimentation, and
naturally occurring events in the environment; i.e., they are contextualized (Baker & Saul, 1994;
Casteel & Isom, 1994; Lee & Fradd, 1998; Rodriguez & Bethel, 1983; Rosebery et al., 1992;
Stoddart et al., 1999). Thus, learners engage in authentic communicative interactions—describ-
ing, hypothesizing, explaining, justifying, argumentation, and summarizing—which promote
purposeful language (Lee & Fradd, 1998). They can communicate their understanding in a variety
of formats, for example, in writing, orally, drawing, and creating tables and graphs (Lee & Fradd,
666 STODDART ET AL.
The contextualized use of language in inquiry science instruction also promotes the
understanding of science concepts (Rosebery et al., 1992). In science, language serves to structure
the way concepts are developed, organized, and communicated (Kaplan, 1986; Lemke, 1990;
Newman & Gayton, 1964). Inquiry involves more than hands-on activities; it also involves active
thinking and discourse around activities. In their work with language minority students, Rosebery
et al. (1992) emphasized the role of language and discourse in content learning by using the
processes of argumentation and collaborative inquiry to guide students into examining scientiﬁc
claims and the nature of proof.
The heart of the approach is for students to formulate questions about phenomena that
interest them; to build and criticize theories; to collect, analyze and interpret data; to
evaluate hypotheses through experimentation, observation and measurement; and to
communicate their ﬁndings. (p. 65)
The relationship between science learning and language learning is reciprocal and syner-
gistic. Through the contextualized use of language in science inquiry, students develop and
practice complex language forms and functions. Through the use of language functions such as
description, explanation, and discussion in inquiry science, students enhance their conceptual
understanding. This synergistic perspective is a relatively new view of curricular integration.
Instructional Integration of Content Domains
The integration of subject matter domains has been described in three main ways: thematic,
interdisciplinary, and integrated (Dickinson & Young, 1998; Huntley, 1998; Lederman & Niess,
1997, 1998; McComas & Wang, 1998). These approaches differ in the relative emphasis they
place on a domain and the degree of integration of content and processes. Thematic instruction is
characterized by the use of an overarching theme or topic to create relationships between domains
(Dickinson & Young, 1998). For example, a thematic unit involving science, math, and language
arts might be developed around a topic such as the ocean. In interdisciplinary instruction, content
and processes in a secondary domain are used to support learning in the primary domain. For
example, basic math skills can be applied in an inquiry science lesson. However, the resulting
student learning consists primarily of new science concept understanding. Although there is an
emphasis on the connections between domains, clear boundaries between domains are evident in
interdisciplinary instruction (Huntley, 1998; Lederman & Niess, 1997).
In an integrated curriculum, the emphasis on each domain is balanced, with no dominant
subject area. Huntley (1998) described integration between domains as ‘‘synergistic,’’ where each
domain complements and reinforces the other, resulting in enhanced learning in both domains.
The disciplines interact and support each other. In this sense, there is more than just equal
treatment of the two disciplines; there is a synergistic union of the two disciplines, the result being
an activity or curricular unit in which the interactions between the disciplines result in students
learning more than just the mathematics and science content contained therein (Huntley, 1998,
The view of integration presented in this article is based on Huntley’s deﬁnition of synergistic
integration. Effective language instruction enhances the learning of science concepts, and
effective science inquiry instruction enhances language development and promotes the
development of higher-order thinking skills. This approach aligns with work on the integration
of reading and writing with science instruction (Baker & Saul, 1994; Casteel & Isom, 1994;
Gaskins et al., 1994; Glynn & Muth, 1994; Keys, 1994; Lee & Fradd, 1998; Rivard, 1994). These
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 667
authors emphasized the reciprocal processes in science and literacy learning and argued that this
instructional approach strengthens both science knowledge and literacy development.
In viewing the teaching of science and language as a synergistic process, we support the view
of bilingual educators such as Cummins (1994) and Met (1994), who argue that the teaching of
English and subject matter content should be so integrated that ‘‘all content teachers are also
teachers of language’’ (Cummins, 1994, p. 42) and ‘‘view every content lesson as a language
lesson’’ (Met, 1994, p. 161).There is currently little information available, however,on successful
approaches to preparing teachers to teach inquiry science to second language learners (Lee &
The Development of Teacher Expertise in Domain Integration
The majority of teachers are not taught how to integrate the teaching of second language
development with content matter instruction. Traditionally, in teacher education and staff
development programs, subject matter teaching methods are taught with little emphasis on
integrating the language and culture of the student population being served (Dalton, 1998; Fradd &
Lee, 1999; Stoddart, 1993). English Language Development (ELD) is a separate area of teacher
certiﬁcation, and most school districts have a distinct English as a Second Language (ESL)
curriculum that is taught in isolated ESL classes by ELD teachers (Met, 1994). It is not surprising
that teachers tend to view themselves as either subject matter teachers or teachers of language—
but not both (Baker & Saul, 1994).
Most teachers, irrespective of years of teaching experience, therefore are novices at teaching a
second language in the context of subject matter instruction. This is a new area of expertise. To
begin to integrate language development with inquiry science instruction, teachers must
understand the characteristics of the individual domains and also the connections between these
domains. As novices in domain integration, most teachers are likely to begin with a focus on the
surface features of each domain. As expertise develops, they will begin to recognize commonalties
in structure and process across domains. This entails a shift in the complexity of teacher thinking,
which the literature on the development of expertise describes as a shift from a restricted, global
understanding to an elaborated, complex, situated knowledge which can be applied ﬂexibly in
instruction (Benner, 1984; Carter, Cushing, Sabers, Stein, & Berliner, 1988; Dreyfus & Dreyfus,
1986). This evolution of teacher understanding could be characterized as a shift from ‘‘knowing
that’’ to ‘‘knowing how’’ (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986; Kuhn, 1970; Polanyi, 1958 ). ‘‘Knowing that’’
understanding is characterized by a rule-governed, theoretical orientation, whereas ‘‘knowing
how’’ is the ﬂexible application of principles in practice. In the continuum from knowing that to
knowing how, there is a movement from detached observer to involved performer, where decision
making is contextually contingent and grounded in experience. Understanding of the conceptual
connections between domains is fundamental to this shift (i.e., integration). This involves
developing differentiated and complex reasoning about the interaction and interdependence of
both domains (Baker-Brown, Ballard, Bluck, De Vries, Suedfeld, & Tetlock, 1992).
In the next section of this article, the conceptual model of science-language integration
described above is integrated with the models of domain integration, the development of expertise,
and cognitive complexity to provide the framework for a rubric of science – language integration.
The context for this study is Language Acquisition through Science Education in Rural
Schools (LASERS), a National Science Foundation – funded Local Systemic Change project in
668 STODDART ET AL.
central California that prepares experienced teachers to provide inquiry science instruction to
Latino students learning English as a second language. The science –language integration rubric
was developed to provide a conceptual framework for teacher staff development activities and to
gauge changes in teachers’ beliefs and practice. The research proceeded in two phases: (a) the
development of a ﬁve-level rubric based on the literature on the development of expertise (Dreyfus
& Dreyfus, 1986), conceptual/integrative complexity (Suedfeld et al., 1992), and subject matter
integration (Baker & Saul, 1994; Casteel & Isom, 1994; Gaskins et al., 1994; Glynn & Muth, 1994;
Huntley, 1998; Keys, 1994; Rivard, 1994; Woodbury, 1998); and (b) the identiﬁcation of
exemplars of teacher thinking at each of the rubric levels drawn from interviews of teachers in the
A rubric was developed to analyze teachers’ understanding of science–language integration
for three reasons: (a) The rubric affords researchers and others with a clear explanation of the
phenomenon to be studied, (b) it provides a distinct and concise means to gauge an individual’s
level of understanding, and (c) it helps assess changes in reasoning or performance over time. In
the context of education, a rubric generally refers to a set of criteria, usually on a continuum,
designed to describe varying levels of performance on a given task or types of beliefs on a speciﬁc
topic (Arter, 1993; Luft, 1999).
As Table 1 shows, the science– language integration rubric describes a continuum of
reasoning based on models of the development of expertise (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986) and
cognitive complexity (Suedfeld et al., 1992). Both theories posit an increasing complexity of
information processing and decision making as learners move from a basic, general understanding
to elaborated, explicit knowledge and reasoning about integration. The rubric also incorporates
the previously deﬁned categorical views of integration (thematic, interdisciplinary, and inte-
grated) into a developmental continuum, with thematic instruction representing the most basic
level and integration the most complex. Table 1 summarizes the relationship among the three
frameworks used in the construction of the rubric.
The Dreyfus model (1986) describes ﬁve levels of proﬁciency in thedevelopment of expertise
with each level reﬂecting qualitatively different perceptions and modes of reasoning. Novice
learners (Level 1) tend to rely on rule-based facts and features resulting in extremely limited and
inﬂexible behavior. The advanced beginners (Level 2) recognize global aspects and show a limited
consideration of situational elements. With more experience, the competent performers (Level 3)
establish priorities, develop goals, and have an organized plan deﬁned by ﬂexibility and conscious
reﬂection. Proﬁcient performers (Level 4) are analytical, make decisions based on situational
involvement, have an intuitive ability to perceive patterns holistically, and recognize common-
alties across seemingly different contexts. In addition to making decisions based on a holistic,
integrated understanding of situations, experts (Level 5) rely on their extensive background and
experience to assess and respond to situations expediently.
Developing expertise in science–language integration involves more than an elaborated
understanding about the individual domains of science and language. Whereas the Dreyfus model
focuses primarily on the development of expertise within a particular domain, the conceptual /
integrative complexity scale developed by Baker-Brown et al. (1992) provides the conceptual
framing necessary to gauge teachers’ understanding of the interaction and interdependent
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 669
relationship between the domains of science and language. The conceptual /integrative com-
plexity scale is a cognitive styles approach focusing on the conceptual structure of reasoning rather
than on its content. It assesses complexity of information processing and decision making where
complexity is deﬁned and measured in terms of degrees of differentiation and integration.
Differentiation refers to the acknowledgment of multiple dimensions within a domain and the
taking of different perspectives when considering a domain. Differentiation is a necessary but not
sufﬁcient prerequisite for integration. Integration refers to the development of conceptual
connections among differentiated dimensions or perspectives (e.g., science and language). An
understanding of such connections is ‘‘inferred from references to trade-offs between alternatives,
a synthesis between them, and a reference to a higher-order concept that subsumes them.’’
(Suedfeld et al., 1992, p. 393).
Five key transitions of the conceptual/ integrative complexity scale were integrated into
the science– language integration rubric. Level 1 reasoning shows no evidence of either
differentiation or integration of domains and a reliance on unidimensional rules for interpreting
events or making choices. At Level 2, reasoning reﬂects a conditional acceptance of, or emergent
recognition of other perspectives or dimensions and the plausibility of integrating them. Level 3
reasoning about science–language integration reﬂects a clear presentation of differentiated
Framework for science–language integration rubric
Level 1 Novice: rule-based
No integration Separate content
Level 2 Advanced beginner:
Thematic instruction Basic understanding;
Level 3 Competent
Level 4 Proﬁcient performer:
Level 5 Expert: ﬂexible and
Sources Dreyfus & Dreyfus,
Baker-Brown et al.,
et al., 1992
Dickinson & Young,
1998; Lederman &
Niess, 1997, 1998;
670 STODDART ET AL.
dimensions and the recognition that they could interact. However, one perspective could be
considered dominant over the other. At Level 4, alternative perspectives or dimensions are held in
focus simultaneously and are also presented in a reciprocal relationship. Integrative cognition
takes a variety of forms, such as identifying a superordinate category linking the domains of
science and language, or developing insights into the shared attributes of the two domains, or the
recognition of conﬂicting goals or value tradeoffs. The unique characteristic of Level 5 reasoning
is the presence of an overarching viewpoint which contains an explanation of the organizing
principles (e.g., causal, theoretical) of the synergistic relationship between the domains of science
In addition, the ﬁve-level science–language integration rubric incorporates the previously
deﬁned categorical views of integration (i.e., thematic, interdisciplinary, integrated) into a
developmental continuum. For example, thematic instruction is represented in rubric Level 2,
Beginning Integration. The interdisciplinary instructional approach is represented in rubric Level
3, Emerging Integration. The integrated instructional approach, where the interaction between
science and language is synergistic, is represented in Level 4, Fundamental Integration, and Level
5, Elaborated Integration.
Rubric Levels. In developing the ﬁve-level science– language integration rubric, key
characteristics and indicators of each level of the rubric were identiﬁed through the constant
comparative method (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). This is an inductive, qualitative process in which
the development of expertise (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986) and the conceptual/ integrative
complexity (Suefeld et al., 1992) continuums were tested against the teacher interview responses
through review, coding, and identiﬁcation of dominant themes.
As Table 2 shows, science–language integration is represented in the rubric as a continuum
from Level 1 to Level 5. At Level l, No Integration, science and language are perceived as separate
content domains. At Level 2, Beginning Integration, there is recognition of the possibility of
science and language integration. Level 3, Emerging Integration, is characterized by a uni-
directional view whereby either language or science is viewed as dominant. Level 4, Fundamental
Integration, incorporates the view that science and language share underlying common processes
(e.g., predicting, concluding, reporting); thus, there is a reciprocal relationship between science
and language. At Level 5, Elaborated Integration, the interaction between science and language is
perceived as interdependent and synergistic.
The science–language integration rubric presented in Table 2 represents a continuum of
understanding constructed to address both the characteristics and the indicators of expertise at
each level. The characteristics column reﬂects the development of expertise and integrated
complexity literature (Baker-Brown et al., 1992; Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986) as applied to peda-
gogy. The indicators column reﬂects teachers’ perceptions about science – language integration
from interviews as well as the literature on how teachers’ understanding of curricular integration is
manifest in dialogue (Baker & Saul, 1994).
Exemplars of Teacher Conceptions
Interviews were conducted with 24 ﬁrst- through sixth-grade teachers (21 female, 3 male)
who participated in the LASERS summer school academy in 1998. The majority of the 24 teachers
(19 of 24) had more than 3 years of teaching experience. The sample includes teachers with
differing levels of participation in the LASERS project and a range of teaching experience.
Therefore, they represent a range of perspectives on language-science integration. Each teacher
was interviewed about his views on the integration of science and language. Each interview was
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 671
Science–language integration rubric
Level 1: no integration Domains are discrete and isolated—no awareness of the
possibility of integration or connections between two
domains of knowledge
States that science and language cannot be taught in the
Domains are rule-governed, no understanding or
consideration of context
Describes science and language teaching as a prescribed
approach, with little or no reference to personal
experience or reﬂection on integration
No need or desire for change in understanding or use of
No plan for changing practice to include integration of
science and language
Describes instruction devoid of student input with little
opportunity for student discourse or student-initiated
Level 2: beginning integration Rudimentary understanding that integration of two domains
Cites secondary sources (e.g., research, staff development)
when deﬁning integration; deﬁnition is incomplete or
Understanding of the theoretical basis for integration, but
little or no knowledge of strategies for implementation
May indicate no personal practical experience implement-
ing science and language curriculum
No understanding of how theory relates to context in
Describes integration as sequential and domains may lack
Awareness of need to improve understanding and use of
Describes integration as thematic instruction (e.g., ocean as
an organizing topic)
Interest in exploring science–language connections
Level 3: emerging integration Understands integration as a focus on one domain, using
minimal content in the secondary domain to support
content in the primary domain
Describes instruction as focusing on either science or
language concepts; uses skills, e.g., vocabulary building
or writing tasks, to connect domains
Ability to clearly differentiation between domains, but with
minimal understanding of common processes and con-
cepts across domains
Describes language learning in narrow terms—does not
discuss the concept of language development
Emerging understanding of how to apply the theory of
integration to instructional context
May indicate feeling uncomfortable with the challenge of
applying integration in practice and describe ideas for
further understanding and implementation
Desire to increase understanding of integration and improve
application of knowledge with ability to organize a plan
672 STODDART ET AL.
Level 4: fundamental integration Implicitly understands integration as a reciprocal
relationship between two domains but the content in
either domain may not be covered in depth
Provides a complete and accurate deﬁnition of science–
language integration, with examples from instruction
Identiﬁcation of superordinate processes or concepts linking
domains—discussion of the conceptual connections and
processes in common between two domains—insights
into shared attributes of different dimensions of domains
Discusses the value of using instructional approaches (e.g.,
experimentation whereby students make predictions,
draw conclusions) and the use of academic language to
strengthen the learning of both science and language
Recognition of conﬂicting goals or value tradeoffs in
integrating domains of knowledge
Recognizes that there are challenges involved in integrated
curriculum (e.g., time to teach students the inquiry
Ability to articulate a plan to apply new understanding to
Describes a plan for curricular integration based on
processes in common between domains
Level 5: elaborated integration Thorough, explicit understanding of integration–extends
description of integration to include value of reﬂection,
with examples of analysis and contextual considerations
across a variety of domains
Discusses the speciﬁcs of how and why integration can be
applied to additional disciplines, refers to integration as a
Discusses using inquiry and contextualization as the
framework for an integrated instruction and includes
examples from practice
Provides examples describing transfer and application of
understanding of integration to novel situations and
Description and discussion of integration is clearly
Uses a conceptual framework, such as inquiry, for
understanding and implementing an integrated
curriculum across two or more domains of knowledge—
emphasis is on higher-order thinking skills that enhance
Addresses the value of integrating inquiry across subject
areas and provides speciﬁc examples of higher-order
thinking skills as an outcome of science–language
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 673
transcribed and four researchers read through the interview transcripts. The semistructured
interview included the following questions:
What do you consider are the features of effective science instruction?
What experiences are necessary for students to become successful in learning science?
What do you think would be effective instruction for English language learners?
What experiences are necessary for students to become successful in learning language?
What do you think are the most effective strategies for teaching science to English
What are your thoughts about integrating science and language instruction?
Was there a speciﬁc [integrated science–language] lesson that you felt was particularly
successful, that your students really understood?
Exemplars representing teacher conceptions of science – language integration at each rubric
level were drawn from the teacher interviews. This process of carefully deriving categories of
teacher responses which emerge from the data is as much a part of the method as the ﬁnal rubric
itself. Using a constant comparative method (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992) similar to that used in the
rubric level development, four researchers read through the 24 interview transcripts and identiﬁed
a sample of teacher responses exemplifying the indicators and characteristics of each rubric level.
Researchers then independently rated each of the exemplars to establish criteria. Where there was
disagreement, researchers conferenced to reach a ﬁnal consensus.
Science–Language Integration Rubric
In the following section we present an elaborated description of the development of teacher
thinking over the ﬁve levels of the rubric. For each level we provide: (a) an overall rubric level
description, followed by (b) a summary of the key themes for that level, and (c) exemplars to
illustrate the key themes for that level. Individual teachers’ responses represent variations on the
themes described in the general description of each rubric level. Developing complexity in
science–language integration is represented on a continuum of understanding that moves from a
restricted view in which boundaries between domains are viewed as impermeable to an elaborated,
differentiated perspective that acknowledges a reciprocal and synergistic relationship between
Level 1, No Integration
Level 1 represents the view that science and language are separate domains. This level
incorporates the Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986) novice level, which represents an inﬂexible, rule-
based perspective. Reasoning about science – language integration is restricted and responses
reﬂect the belief that integration is not possible and alternative perspectives are not considered.
(Baker-Brown et al., 1992). Individuals may describe domain boundaries as impermeable and
present a compartmentalized view of science and language. Furthermore, there may be no
indication of the need or motivation to change current understanding or to use an integrated
approach. Ideas about a domain are presented as discrete and isolated.
Three themes characterize Level 1, No Integration: (a) no awareness of the possibility of
integration or connections between science and language, (b) ideas about domains are rule-
governed with no understanding or consideration of context, and (c) teachers may indicate that
science and language cannot be taught in the same lesson. These themes are illustrated using
teacher quotes in the following section.
674 STODDART ET AL.
No Awareness of Integration
I don’t know what language acquisition has to do with science yet. How is that going to
come together? That did not become apparent to me.
This teacher response implies an understanding of the domains and processes of science and
language as unrelated.
Rule-Governed Ideas about Domains
[The] school’s primary focus should be for students to learn English. Students really need
to know English before they learn science.
This response reﬂects the belief that learning English is a prerequisite to learning science
without consideration of science as a meaningful language learning context.
Teach Either Language or Science—Not Both
It’s too difﬁcult to try to do both [science and language]. If your emphasis is trying to do
both I think it’s very difﬁcult to be able to do that. I think it works a lot better for the kids if
what you expect is language. ...If it’s the content you want to teach them, forget the
language ...teach them the content. There might be people who can do both but I think it’s
very difﬁcult to actually do that. It all depends on what you want to emphasize to the kid.
Do you want them to understand the lunar eclipse or do you want to make it such that they
understand a language concept? I don’t think you can do justice to both at the same time.
This response illustrates an understanding of science and language domains as compart-
mentalized and a belief that it is not possible to consider addressing two domains within one
Level 2, Beginning Integration
At Level 2, Beginning Integration, individuals recognize the plausibility of science –language
integration. Their understanding, however, can be described as global or general, and undif-
ferentiated. They are aware that integration could hypothetically occur (knowing that) but have a
limited understanding and repertoire of strategies for implementation (knowing how), (Dreyfus &
Dreyfus, 1986). Individuals begin to look at the issue of integration in a different way (moderate
differentiation) but there is no consideration of the conceptual connections (Baker-Brown et al.,
1992) between science and language.
Level 2 responses demonstrate a superﬁcial understanding of integration—a belief that
integration between domains is plausible—but show little if any knowledge of strategies for
implementing integration. Teachers may not have the vocabulary, concepts, or experience to frame
their discussion of integration and therefore discussion may be unfocused. At the same time, their
responses show a beginning understanding of and attempts at implementing integration. This
often translates to an instructional approach in which the connections between science and
language are theme-based or include sequential, loosely related activities—described as thematic
instruction by Dickinson and Young (1998). In addition, the practices described may lack in-depth
coverage of science or language content and may not incorporate clear goals and learning
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 675
objectives for the respective domains. Teachers at this level may also acknowledge a need to
improve their understanding and use of integration. They may view integration as an activity in
addition to content instruction rather than as a means to improve student learning through in-depth
exploration of concepts.
The themes that characterize Level 2, Beginning Integration, are (a) a rudimentary under-
standing that integration of two domains is possible, (b) integration is described as sequential and
domains may lack in-depth content, and (c) integration is described as thematic instruction
whereby subject areas are organized around a topic or theme. These themes are illustrated using
teacher quotes in the following section.
Plausibility of Science-Language Integration
I’ve seen it [teaching of science and language within same lesson] done but it’s sort of
like ...how can I put it? Well, I know it’s been done because during the summer school
they do ‘‘Into English’’ and ‘‘Hampton Brown’’ and primarily do it in a science-type way,
so I know it’s done. I bet in ways I do it, too, but I don’t go into a lesson necessarily saying
to myself, ‘‘I want them to understand a type of language lesson. Okay, contrac-
tions ...we’re working on contractions or something like that.’’ I don’t go into a lesson
saying, ‘‘I’ve got to make sure they understand contractions along with the solar eclipse.’’
You can use it ...maybe I’m all totally wrong about it or something, I don’t know, it’s real
In the process of relating an example from practice, this teacher realizes that elements of
integration may have been present in the lesson, i.e., plausibility. However, the teacher did not
consciously design the lesson to address speciﬁc learning goals in both science and language. This
response reﬂects a Level 2 awareness that teaching integrated science is plausible, albeit difﬁcult,
and the lack of competence in deliberately planning lessons that integrate science and language
(i.e., knowing that rather than knowing how).
Science–Language Integration as Sequential
I think that students really understood that habitats have characteristics and that they are
the same no matter what living thing they were talking about—the shelter, food, water, and
air, oxygen—so that was good. They were able to say it orally and then they had to write it.
And they included all of the components. ...That is all we did, just science and ELD.
This response presents a conception of science—language integration as sequential: First the
students do science, then they write about it. There is no evidence of understanding how these
language forms serve a function in the learning of science.
Science–Language Integration as Thematic
Maybe having a broad theme ...something that’s broad, like interactions. We interact with
the table or the chair by sitting on it. We interact with each other by talking. It’s really basic
but there are lots of lessons around ‘‘What is an interaction?’’ and then we move into
‘‘Okay, nutrient interactions’’ and ‘‘Where are nutrients?’’ I don’t know how to describe
it ...it’s like building on top of something. I like the interactions unit, but I’d like to be able
to do more.
676 STODDART ET AL.
In this response, the teacher is exploring her understanding of thematic connections and how
they apply to practice. This type of Level 2 response shows an emerging understanding of
integration as an idea, but not enough practical experience in implementation or reﬂection to
describe integration in more than vague, general terms around the theme of nutrition.
Level 3, Emerging Integration
Teacher responses at Level 3, Emerging Integration, reﬂect an understanding of science–
language integration as a one-way process in which there is an explicit focus on one domain, with
the second domain used to support or facilitate the primary domain. The recognition of a
relationship between domains signiﬁes an emergent understanding of integration, but the
relationship is expressed in a tentative manner. At this level, individuals recognize that there are
different ways of integrating content areas but they tend to focus on only one area (Baker-Brown
et al., 1992). For example, individuals may have an emerging knowledge of how to incorporate
some science content in a language lesson or some language skills in a science lesson.
Teachers at this level are beginning to know how (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986). They are
beginning to reﬂect on how their beliefs and practice of integration have changed and evolved.
They may discuss shared attributes (e.g., language functions such as writing, explaining,
observing) that enhance learning across domains. As their ideas about integration are emerging,
teachers are able to provide a few fairly general examples of integrated approaches from practice.
However, their responses lack detailed expression of science– language integration as a reciprocal
process. They do not discuss the use of a conceptual framework (e.g., inquiry) as a means for
The themes that characterize Level 3, Emerging Integration, are: (a) an emerging recognition
of the relationship between science and language, where one content domain is foregrounded and
the second serves as background; and (b) the use of instructional strategies such as vocabulary
building, questioning, and/ or writing to link science and language. These key themes are
illustrated using teacher quotes in the following section.
Language Foreground / Science Background
What I ﬁnd is that in the language lessons you can use the content of whatever it is you’re
studying. Say you want them to learn about adjectives. Well, you have adjectives that
describe the moon ...that kind of thing, you can tie it in but it’s still a language
lesson ...or if you want them to do comparatives, bigger, smaller, faster, shorter, the
sentences or whatever they’re working on have to do with the area of study, the moon is
bigger than the earth ...that sort of thing. It’s very tricky ...it works really well if it’s all
well done; unfortunately, it takes a lot of time and effort to put something like that together.
This response describes an integrated lesson that foregrounds the language concepts and
science content serves as a background to facilitate language learning. In contrast, in the response
that follows the teacher describes an integrated lesson in which learning of science concepts is
dominant with the inclusion of vocabulary as the language portion.
Science Foreground / Language Background
They will study how bones function, what purpose do they serve, how they’re shaped and
how they’re put together enhances that function or makes you be able to walk and move.
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 677
We’ll learn a little vocabulary, not all 206 bones, but some vocabulary of some of the major
bones. ...We’re collecting bones, so we can look at bones, so that we can look at them in
the inside, we can cut them open. Then we can make enough observations to have
something to talk about, to look at. Then we’ll do some reading about bones; the
observations will include trying to ﬁgure out what they’re made out of. How to keep them
healthy. Just some basic introductory types of things ...there are some things to help them
learn the vocabulary. Some little study sheets and worksheets.
Both of these teacher responses illustrate an understanding of integration as a one-way
process, as observed in interdisciplinary instruction (Lederman & Niess, 1997). Level 3 responses
do not include a discussion of science – language integration as a reciprocal process. However, in
both cases the teachers demonstrate an awareness of strategies that can be employed to teach both
science and language (e.g., writing).
Science–Language Instructional Strategies: Vocabulary, Questioning, and/or Writing
I believe that science and language can be taught in the same lesson very easily. For
example, I might do a short language lesson perhaps on the use of the conditional
‘‘would.’’ ‘‘What would happen if ...’’ I may teach that segment outside of my science
lesson. On the other hand, I might use the science information that the kids already have
such as the words that I am using in that language lesson. Though I am not teaching any
new science at that time, I am using science language, science vocabulary, and science
ideas for the kids to form their sentences with. I might say, ‘‘That water experiment we did
the other day, what would have happened if ... ’’ and then have the kids giving me
sentences using, ‘‘What would happen if I dropped water on a candle. What would happen
if I ...’’ So that students are still working within the language of the science lesson.
Then when you are in the science lesson, it is easy to have them go back. So that when
they are asking their real questions about what they are doing, they already have a tem-
plate to plug those words into and they are used to using that language, they are familiar
This response illustrates an emerging understanding of the use of a common process to
integrate science and language learning. The teacher describes using questioning as a language
function that is a shared attribute with science learning. Typical of Level 3, the teacher describes a
single instructional strategy rather than a system of strategies, as a bridge between the two
domains. However, there is no discussion of how this strategy serves to improve the learning of
concepts in both science and language. Teacher responses at this level may also indicate a desire to
enhance their understanding of science –language integration. This understanding deepens and is
elaborated in the more extensive use of superordinate categories, such as processes and concepts,
described in Level 4 understanding of integration.
Level 4, Fundamental Integration
At Level 4, individuals understand the dynamic, reciprocal relationship between science and
language necessary for integrated instruction (Huntley, 1998). This understanding is seen in their
discussion of the processes common to the domains of science and language, as well as
superordinate categories that link the domains (Baker-Brown et al., 1992). The skill of identifying
and discussing common processes and patterns across both science and language suggests that
teachers are making decisions based on an understanding of the structural similarities between the
678 STODDART ET AL.
domains (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986). Responses at this level also indicate that teachers have
developed strategies based on their personal experiences in implementing integrated science and
language instruction. This understanding is expressed by providing clear examples from their
practice. There is an explicit focus on the importance of academic language, language functions,
and concept development. Furthermore, responses acknowledge both the complexities of
integrating domains of knowledge (e.g., negotiating conﬂicting goals or value tradeoffs) as well
as advantages (e.g., time to explore concepts in depth) (Baker-Brown et al., 1992). Although
the knowledge and skills of integration may not be applied ﬂexibly to domains outside science
and language, there is a clear indication of thoughtful reﬂection about changes over time in
beliefs about integrated practice. In addition, there may be a discussion of plans to improve their
growing knowledge and expertise further in content integration to improve student learning
Three themes characterize Level 4, Fundamental Int egration: (a) understa nding integration as
a reciprocal relationship between the domains of science and language, (b) identiﬁcation of a
superordinate category (process and concepts) that links the domains of language and science, and
(c) discussion of the value of using instructional approaches (such as student-generated
predictions, conclusions) to strengthen the learning of both science and language. These key
themes are illustrated using teacher quotes in the following section.
Science and language are connected ...but teaching either one in isolation—even teaching
science without working in a context is meaningless. I would say that they’re connected. I
personally like using science and I think that kids naturally gravitate toward scientiﬁc
questions about the world. I think that you could also use literature and embed ideas so
deeply in a piece of literature, in a story, in a context where kids also develop ELD. It
works well to connect such closely related subjects. Science and language provide a
cohesive learning context with the hands-on experiments and the science around plants and
then having the English language development in addition—the transference. They need to
feel it in their hands, to have those experiences and then to transfer it. When we talk about
‘‘ﬂower’’ they have a context in which that exists. It’s not just the word out in the world
because that has no connection for them. I mean, a stem is something that we’ve been
touching, drawing, playing with, working with, it’s not just some thing that sits on a plant
outside. It’s part of what we’ve been doing. I ﬁnd that if I don’t talk about ideas, I don’t
internalize them so I think when students are exploring their ideas, thoughts and concepts
they need the opportunity to write, reﬂect, talk, and ﬁgure out meanings together and have
good discussions. Students need to have that language embedded in what they’re doing and
it seems hard for me to imagine doing ELD in a regular classroom without providing other
rich experiences for them to connect to that language.
A coherent, elaborated discussion of the reciprocal relationship between science and
language exempliﬁes teacher responses at Level 4. An understandin g of a reciprocal relationship is
inferred from the teacher’s discussion of the processes in common between the domains of science
and language, and illustrated by the teacher’s use of experimentation as an instructional strategy
for implementing an integrated approach to science and language. There is explicit acknowl-
edgment of the advantage afforded by an integrated approach. This response highlights both the
learning of science content and language development and notes that language functions help
students to internalize ideas.
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 679
Processes in Common between Language and Science
A good language learner makes predictions, a good language learner asks questions, and a
good reader makes predictions and asks questions. A good reader ﬁgures out what the next
question is going to be. A kid that knows how to read can guess the questions that a teacher
is going to ask. A good science learner can do the same kind of thing. ‘‘Looking at this,
these are the questions that come up.’’ Those are strategies that are used in both science and
language and in literacy and it ties so beautifully together, especially for the kids that have
already been using science to learn language. In science there is so much opportunity for
hands-on and so many opportunities for a child to become engaged. You’re going to do
predictions, try to justify what it is you’re saying and offer proof. All of those things are
also important language structures ...language doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If I combine
science and a language lesson at the same time then I have the time to teach the science I
want. Language, literacy, all of those ...they’re tools to learn about the world. Science is
learning about the world. Take those tools and use them for the studies that we need to do.
This teacher response shows reﬂective analysis of her understanding of integration. Her
explanation is grounded and informed by personal experience in implementing science– language
integration in the classroom. She describes integration as a reciprocal process, using clearly
articulated examples of both the conceptual and skill-based connections between science and
language. Furthermore, she acknowledges that integrating science and language provides an
effective means for her to teach and for her students to learn in both domains. Her understanding
and applied experience extend beyond a knowledge of knowing that and becomes knowing how;
she provides a rationale for why integration enhances learning in both domains.
Value of Instructional Approaches to Strengthen Learning Science and Language
One thing I do is a lot of discussion. I don’t think that you can have good inquiry science in
a classroom without science conversation between the teacher and the group or the teacher
and the individual, being facilitated. Those conversations are frequent and you ﬁnd that the
kids build on each other’s conceptual understanding as they are talking. For example, with
videos, let’s say that I was studying interactions between animals. There are lots of good
videos. The one that comes to mind is the Survival of Life series. Take a 5-minute video
segment which shows a blind crawﬁsh and a snail and how they interact together to protect
each other within the environment. Turn the sound down, stop the video, and have the kids
talk about what they have seen. ...There’s no narrating so they are working as observers.
The important part is to have them provide the language ...have them ask questions, have
them generate notes, have them talk about what they think is going on. So that the class
comes to a consensus as to what they think must be happening in that picture. Later, you
can go back and let them hear the narration.
This teacher provides an example of how strategies such as structuring student discussions
enhance learning in both science and language. At this level of expertise the teacher has both the
understanding and the skills to implement integration effectively and to reﬂect thoughtfully on the
dynamic relationship between her teaching and her students’ learning. This response is an
example of an advanced Level 4, lacking only a few indicators to rate it as Level 5 understanding
(e.g., explicit identiﬁcation of a framework, such as inquiry, for integration; discussion of
integration across additional domains; use of language functions to promote higher-order thinking
and concept development).
680 STODDART ET AL.
Level 5, Elaborated Integration
At Level 5, Elaborated Integration, individuals acknowledge the deeply interdependent
relationship between science and language and view their interaction as dynamic. Individuals
have developed a set of organizing principles to guide their decision making and use a conceptual
framework for understanding speciﬁc interactions across and within domains (Baker-Brown et al.,
1992). The integration of science and language is understood to enhance higher-order thinking in
both domains. In addition, there tends to be a holistic perspective on the process of teaching and
learning that enables individuals to adapt their behavior ﬂexibly in response to speciﬁc contexts
(Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986).
Teacher responses at Level 5 express a clear and elaborated understanding of how reciprocal
integration guides the design and implementation of integrated science –language instruction. The
interaction between science and language is viewed as synergistic, resulting in enhanced learning
across domains. Teachers provide a thoughtful rationale for the effectiveness of integration and are
able to draw on an elaborated and ﬂexible repertoire of strategies for its implementation in a
variety of situations and contexts. At this level there is an understanding of the importance of using
an overarching conceptual framework such as inquiry for implementing an integrated curriculum
across two or more domains of knowledge. Teachers know how to use a framework for teaching
and also know why it affects learning. They may discuss how inquiry processes provide a context
for the development and use of metacognitive processes (including language functions) to
enhance students’ understanding, and may also discuss the importance of providing students with
opportunities to reﬂect on and guide their own learning. Teachers also recognize the value of
reﬂection for analysis and improvement of their own teaching and use it as a technique to analyze
their own practice.
In our analysis of teacher interviews we did not ﬁnd solid, complete examples of Level 5
understanding of integration. Therefore, the quotations we present to illustrate this level of
integration are an amalgamation of several teachers’ responses that were each at a high Level 4
understanding of science – language integration. Level 5 exemplars are not contrived examples;
rather, they are actual teacher responses, combined to reﬂect a clearly developed and articulated
Level 5 understanding of integration. The exemplars represented in this section are the product or
amalgamation of comments made by three or more teachers at different points in their interviews.
Level 5, Elaborated Integration, is characterized by two main themes: (a) the use of a conceptual
framework such as inquiry for understanding and implementing an integrated curriculum across
two or more domains of knowledge; and (b) extension of the description of integration to include
reﬂection, with examples of analysis and contextual considerations across a variety of domains.
Inquiry as a Conceptual Framework
Inquiry science processes provide the context and opportunity to use academic language. I
get much better student learning outcomes as a result of an integrated curriculum because
students are engaged in a lot of hands-on projects which help develop higher-order
thinking skills. The students need to touch and feel. They need to be actively involved.
Instruction is not the teacher lecturing at them and them just taking notes or reading out of
a book. Through inquiry, students learn the scientiﬁc processes and skills; they learn how
to observe, classify, make predictions, and come up with hypotheses to explain why
something happened. They read to learn and learn to write to communicate their scientiﬁc
understanding with each other. I think that as kids are reporting to each other, as they put
language to the thought process, they are discovering new concepts, they are generating
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 681
academic language, they’re having to speak about something that is not just playground
oriented. Students practice how to defend their thoughts and opinions by providing
supporting details. Through the interactive process between science and language, students
develop critical thinking skills and learn in-depth content because they have opportunities
to explore connections between science and language; in addition students learn
differences between them.
Reﬂection and Extended Integration
Language and science are interconnected. In both language and science, students practice
reading and writing content information and how to express themselves in writing in order
to communicate their ideas. Through this interactive process students generate discourse as
they ask questions and ﬁgure out information either on their own or talking with other
group members. The nature of the inquiry science interactions requires the use of higher-
order language. The use of higher-order language enhances scientiﬁc understanding as it
enables students to dialogue and make sense of abstract science concepts. The integration
of language and science is a synthesis whereby science and language interact and support
each other. The result of the synthesis is enhanced science and language understanding
beyond the scope of learning science and language content separately. Applying this
dynamic system in the classroom requires that I use a lot of different skills and alternate
instructional strategies. For example, we need to have opportunities for ﬁeld trips, even if
it’s just a 5-minute ﬁeld trip out the door to do an observation in the garden. Kids need time
to reﬂect and write and talk and discuss and learn ...and there needs to be a tie-in to the
real world. For example students can do a project on nutrition and analyze the food in their
school cafeteria to learn about protein, carbohydrates, calories, etc. Science and language
need to be tied in with all the curricular areas. If it’s separate, then I don’t think it is as
effective because that’s not the way the world works.
Both of these responses show a sophisticated understanding of integration. They provide clear
evidence of understanding science–language integration as a synergistic relationship and give
examples of how and why this approach to instruction enhances learning across academic
domains. In both responses the teachers discuss the importance of using a framework for
instruction (in this case, inquiry with hands-on experiences.) They provide a rationale to explain
why this instructional approach leads to improved student learning in the form of higher-order
thinking and the development of academic language, i.e., knowing why it works.
In the ﬁrst quotation, the importance of students’ role in generating their own learning through
student-to-student and student-to-teacher interactions is recognized. The second quote points out
that to implement science and language instruction effectively, a teacher needs to be ﬂexible and
able to employ a variety of instructional strategies. This quotation also emphasizes that integrated
instruction makes connections between learning science and language with students’ experiences
in the real world. The teachers emphasize that relating academic science and language concepts to
students’ prior experiences and knowledge in other domains is an important component of an
integrated approach to instruction.
The traditional approach to educating English language learners, which separates the
teaching of language from the teaching of science content, presents an unnecessary obstacle to the
academic progress of language minority students. English language learners do not have to learn
682 STODDART ET AL.
English before they learn science. Engagement in scientiﬁc inquiry promotes the learning of
academic English and science register, and the elaborated use of language is fundamental to
developing a conceptual understanding of science content. The integration of authentic hands-on
inquiry with linguistic and metacognitive analysis serves to promote the development of higher-
order thinking skills. A synergistic view of language and science learning is consistent with the
view of inquiry learning presented in the National Science Standards (NRC, 1996). This
perspective, however, has not been well articulated in either teacher education or curriculum
development, and thus teachers are rarely well prepared to offer integrated instruction. The
research presented in this report is a ﬁrst step in describing a practical model of science –language
integration that could be used to inform both research and practice. The goal is to provide a lens to
look at teacher thinking about science instruction for the rapidly increasing population of language
minority students in the United States.
It is important to recognize that most teachers may function as novices when they encounter
an approach to teaching which is outside the boundaries of their prior knowledge, education, and
experience. The science–language integration rubric presented in this article thus describes a
continuum based on the development of expertise that ranges from a view that science and
language cannot be integrated to one that represents the relationship between science and
language as synergistic. Teachers, irrespective of their years of teaching experience, are likely to
develop several different conceptions of science–language integration as their understanding
grows in complexity.
The progression outlined above was evident in the preliminary analyses of teachers’ work in
the LASERS summer staff development program. Before their participation, the majority of
teachers viewed themselves as well prepared to teach either science or language, but not both.
After their participation in the 5-week staff development program, the majority of teachers
believed they had improved in the domain in which they had initially felt least prepared. This
change in teacher understanding was typically represented by a shift from a restricted view of
the connections between science and language (connected only by general themes) to a more
elaborated reasoning about the different ways that teaching inquiry science and language
development could be integrated. Teachers’ more sophisticated views were characterized by
the following components: (a) an emergent recognition of the relationship between science and
language, (b) use of instructional strategies such as writing and questioning to link science and
language, and (c) reﬂection on practice and the motivation to enhance the understanding of
science–language integration. This progression was observed in both novice and experienced
teachers. Their years of experience in teaching had little relationship to teachers’ conception level
of science–language integration.
It is not proposed that this is a developmental continuum, i.e., that teachers progress through
all levels in a linear fashion. Teacher reasoning may move from a Level1 to a Level 3, for example,
without exhibiting Level 2. Instead, the rubric represents categories or ways of thinking about
integration. The levels do represent an increasing sophistication in teachers’ reasoning, and
progress is likely to occur from less to more complex thinking. In the next research phase, the
science– language integration rubric will be used to analyze shifts in teachers’ beliefs and practice
systematically as they are engaged in a range of science and language staff development activities.
It will also be used to examine the relationship between teacher beliefs and practice—how
teachers’ views about science – language integration are reﬂected in their instructional decision
making and the relationship between the different approaches to science– language integration
and student learning outcomes.
The ﬁndings of this report suggest the need to rethink staff development activities and science
teacher education. The artiﬁcial and rigid distinctions between the role of science teacher and
INTEGRATING INQUIRY SCIENCE AND LANGUAGE 683
language teacher must be broken down. All science teachers can beneﬁt from understanding the
function of discourse in the development of scientiﬁc understanding. The integration of science
and language is not just an elaboration or a refocusing of a current approach; it involves a
reconceptualization of what it means to teach science. The different approaches to integration
described in the ﬁve-level science–language integration rubric provide a framework for
preservice and in-service teacher staff development and curriculum development. Teachers can
use the rubric and exemplars to examine and reﬂect on their own practice and as a guide in
analyzing and planning instruction. The rubric can also be used by curriculum developers to
design science units in which language is explicitly connected to concrete objects and hands-on
This article focuses on the preparation of teachers to teach science to language minority
students. It could be argued, however, that engaging teachers in the process of science–language
integration is a vehicle for improving the teaching of science for all students. To understand the
integration of language development and science inquiry, teachers need to differentiate between
the characteristics of individual domains and also understand the structural and process
similarities that support domain integration. This will involve them in a structural analysis of
science instruction that focuses their attention on the relationships among physical action and
models, science discourse, and metacognitive analysis. Frequently inquiry science is viewed as
synonymous with hands-on instruction and the importance of discourse and reﬂection is
overlooked. By simultaneously looking at both aspects, teachers deepen their understanding of the
nature of science inquiry itself.
Finally, although this argument has been made in the context of science, it could be elaborated
to include other subject areas such as mathematics and social studies. Teachers of all students, not
just language minority students, need to know the importance of contextualization in the
development of academic language. All students can beneﬁt from learning experiences that enable
them to use language functions such as describing, hypothesizing, reasoning, explaining,
predicting, reﬂecting, and imagining in the learning of subject matter. The critical point is that
language processes can be used to promote understanding of content across all subject matter
domains, and that language use should be contextualized in authentic and concrete activity. In
states such as California, where language minority students represent a signiﬁcant percentage of
the school-age population, methods of English language development should be integrated into all
elementary and secondary subject matter methods classes and staff development programs.
Integrated instruction will assist language minority students in mastering the English language
and simultaneously improve their achievement in academic subjects.
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