New WIDA Focus Bulletin - Making Science Multilingual: Supporting Equity Through Design Principles

This new Focus Bulletin emphasizes how multilingual learners' everyday language can be an asset to science teachers in their efforts to promote classroom engagement.

Science offers all students powerful tools for understanding the world around them and supports their current and future engagement in seeking and designing solutions to problems in global and local communities. Too often, however, multilingual learners are excluded from participation in rigorous science education due to the misconception that ‘doing science’ requires mastery of academic language. In fact, the opposite is true: language learning is not a prerequisite to doing science; it is a product of doing science.

At WIDA, the Making Science Multilingual program (MSM) weaves together contemporary science and language pedagogies to move beyond the false dichotomy of prioritizing language or science. By building on recent innovations in science and language teaching and leveraging the power of collaborative sense-making in science, MSM’s approach to teaching science is not at the expense of language teaching; it uses rigorous science instruction as a particular kind of language teaching that operates across languages.

MSM’s Design Principles for Engaging Multilingual Learners in Three-Dimensional Science (MacDonald et al, 2020) are grounded in the right of all students to learn science and in the responsibility of all educators to disrupt the historical and contemporary disparities that block multilingual learners’ participation and engagement in science. By integrating culturally sustaining pedagogies with the expansion of students’ science and language repertoires, the design principles situate and support language learning as an outcome of engagement in rigorous science teaching and learning.

View or download the newly released Focus Bulletin from the WIDA Resource Library. It provides educators with real-world examples and guiding questions to help create learning spaces where sensemaking, co-construction, language development and equity can flourish simultaneously.

Stay connected with the MSM team by joining the Making Science Multilingual Facebook Group.

About the Authors

This Focus Bulletin was written by WIDA researchers Rita MacDonald and Jennifer Wilfred and David Crowther of the University of Nevada-Reno, past president of the National Science Teaching Association.

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