Teaching middle school science to english language learners through modeling and argumentation using a functional approach
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This inquiry focused on the implementation of an instructional innovation with 6th grade English language learners (ELLs) learning science through inquiry and discourse practices. The innovation consisted of using modeling and argumentation through Systemic Functional Linguistics – a functional approach. Findings suggest a promising model for using the functions of language to engage ELLs in the process of modeling. Argumentation is a part of the modeling process and occurs mostly within the evaluation stage and was analyzed as a discourse practice. The context for implementing this specific type of instruction consisted of a unit on matter specifically comprising of evidence of chemical changes in the formation of a precipitate, temperature change, color change, and the production of a gas in addition to testing the physical properties of minerals and differentiating between elements and compounds. Findings concluded from the study include students’ scientific explanations from more descriptive text types to more explanatory text types. This was aligned with students’ concept of a model from more illustrative purposes to causal/explanatory purposes. Findings revealed positive outcomes in their ability to engage in arguing from evidence to evaluate and critique their models and acknowledge the scope and limitations of their models. Implications suggest the necessity of differentiated model-based instruction and professional development in teacher content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge for instructional practice that engages students in inquiry and discourse practices.