Teacher and student actions to construct biology literacy at a community college: A bounded case study
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractScience content area literacy, particularly literacy development in college level biology, is the focus of this study. The study investigates the actions and activities of an instructor and six students over the course of 16 weeks. The study is in response to interest in the literate practices in science classes (NSES, 1996) and to the call for contextual studies that facilitate the learning of science (Borasi & Siegel, 1999; Moje, 1996; Nist & Holschuh, 1996; Prentiss, 1998). A collaborative study between the biology teacher and the researcher, this study investigates the practices believed to be effective for the development of biology literacy. Data sources, in the qualitative bounded case study (Bogdin & Biklin, 1982; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Miles & Huberman, 1994), include: field notes of classroom observations, in-depth interviews (Seidman, 1992), class surveys, and literate artifacts. The data were coded and analyzed using a constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The six students reveal similarities and differences regarding the actions, patterns, practices and use of materials and their beliefs about effective practice in the development of biology literacy. The results indicate that a variety of actions and activities are needed to facilitate the development of biology literacy. The common themes to develop from the students' data about effective teacher actions are the following: (a) involves and engages students in inquiry learning through group projects, hands-on, and group discussions; (b) relates examples, experiences, and stories; (c) exhibits expertise; (d) encourages a relaxed classroom atmosphere; (e) facilitates and coaches students; and (f) credits creativity. Further, students report their teacher to be an expert, in terms of science knowledge and literate practices, and that her expertise contributes to their understanding of biology literacy. The teachers' data reveals three themes embedded in her classroom actions: science as a language, science as a social activity, and science as an experiential activity. The researcher's role in the study suggests that other researchers may benefit from a similar collaborative effort where the teacher and researcher learn from each other and from their students while supporting content literacy development. Content literacy practice from a constructivist paradigm (Anders & Guzzetti, 1996; Staver, 1998) has merit beyond high school and powerful implications for practice at the college level.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading and Culture