Success through Science Notebooks

Dr. Margarita Huerta

Dr. Margarita Huerta, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies, has recently published studies exploring the relationship between language development and science notebook scores of English language learners (ELLs) and economically disadvantaged students. Collectively, findings show promise for interventions that may foster both language and science competency- and at a faster rate- for these students.

Existing research shows that ELLs take approximately seven years to develop the fluency they need to be successful in the classroom; this lag is clearly evidenced by significantly lower scores in science and literacy domains. In two recent studies, Dr. Huerta explored the use of science notebooks as a tool to help students construct scientific understanding. According to Huerta and colleagues, the use of science notebooks is being increasingly used to serve as a laboratory notebook in which students can record questions, procedures, reflections, and conclusions related to scientific inquiry. The notebooks both offer information to educators about conceptual understandings of science and academic language fluency.

In one quantitative studya, Huerta measured the students' academic language and conceptual understanding; she and colleagues collected 30 science notebooks from participants to investigate the relationship between students' language and science concept scores. Findings indicated significant, positive relationships across three scientific domains - implicating that students' academic language proficiency may parallel their ability to develop and implement science understanding.

In another quantitative studyb, Huerta computed students' science notebook language and concept scores. Specifically, language growth was compared over time for language status (ELLs, formerly ELLs, and English-speaking) and gender. Findings suggest that students demonstrated statistically significant growth over time in their academic language as reflected by science notebook scores. In addition, Huerta and her colleagues noticed conceptual trends in which scores for ELLs, former ELLs, and male students lagged behind at first, but then caught up to their peers by the end of the school year.

Huerta's research supports that the use of science notebooks may be a useful took for fostering both students' academic language and content-area understanding.

Visit Dr. Margarita Huerta's faculty page to learn more about her work.

aHuerta, M., Irby, B. J., Lara-Alecio, R., & Tong, F. (2015). Relationship between language and concept science notebook scores of English language learners and/or economically disadvantaged students.

bHuerta, M., Tong, F., Irby, B. J., & Lara-Alecio, R. (in press). Measuring and comparing academic language development and conceptual understanding via science notebooks. Journal of Educational Research.