Academic journal article Science Educator

Science IDEAS: A Research-Based K-5 Interdisciplinary Instructional Model Linking Science and Literacy

Academic journal article Science Educator

Science IDEAS: A Research-Based K-5 Interdisciplinary Instructional Model Linking Science and Literacy

Article excerpt


Science IDEAS is an evidence-based model that reflects interdisciplinary research findings that support the integration of literacy (e.g., reading comprehension) within science instruction in grades K-5. Presented is a framework for planning integrated science and literacy instruction in which six elements (handson investigations, reading, journaling/writing, propositional concept maps, application activities, prior knowledge/cumulative review) serve as a means of providing students with conceptually-coherent, in-depth science instruction. Reviewed is a multi-year Science IDEAS research initiative whose findings demonstrate the effectiveness of the model in engendering student science and reading achievement growth in grades K-2 and in grades 3-5 in a manner that facilitates positive transfer to grades 6-8. Based on the results presented and related research, curriculum policy changes that would increase the time allocated to science instruction in grades K-5 are suggested as a means of improving the present school reform movement.

Keywords: science and reading, science and literacy, integrated science instruction


Given recent trends that indicate minimal changes in student achievement outcomes in science and reading comprehension (NCES, 2009a,b; 2012), science educators and the general public continue to be concerned about the performance of K-12 students in these two critical curriculum areas. Clearly, in providing a potential academic foundation for later success at the secondary level, instruction in elementary science in combination with content-area reading comprehension proficiency plays a critical role across grades 3-5. Yet, even with consistent recommendations from a variety of national reports (e.g., Duschl et al., 2007; NCES, 2009a,b; NRC, 2011; Snow, 2002), the amount of instructional time allocated to science education at the elementary school level has been substantially reduced in favor of increased time for narrative reading instruction (Cervetti, et al., 2006; Dillon, 2006; Jones et al., 1999). However, even with additional instructional time, reading achievement across grades K-12 remains a major unsolved problem in school reform (NCES, 2009a,b).

Given the preceding trends, an increasing number of researchers are investigating the feasibility of instructional models that lead to evidence-based solutions in which reading is embedded as an element of effective science instruction in grades K-5. In effect, there has been increased interest, advocacy and a growing body of research evidence from science education (Romance & Vitale, 2001, 2006, 2011a,b, 2012, in press) and reading researchers (Duke, 2000b Guthrie, Wigfield, Barbosa, 2004 Guthrie, Wigfield, & Perencevich, 2004 Palincsar & Magnussom, 2001; Pearson et al., 2010) suggesting that linking science learning with forms of literacy (reading, writing, journaling, discussion) provides an effective way of accelerating student achievement in both science and literacy (e.g., reading comprehension) at the elementary level.

Science IDEAS Model: Integrating Literacy within Science

In addressing approaches for linking literacy within science in a manner that is feasible for schools to use, this article describes an integrated science-literacy model, Science IDEAS, and summarizes a series of research findings from 1992 through 2011 that provide cumulative evidence of the effectiveness of the model in simultaneously increasing student achievement in science and reading comprehension.

The Science IDEAS model was initially validated within a grade 4 upper elementary setting (Romance & Vitale, 1992) and subsequently broadened across ethnically and academically diverse classroom settings in grades 4-5 (Romance & Vitale, 2001). In more recent studies (Romance & Vitale, 201 la, 2012), the Science IDEAS model was implemented schoolwide for an entire year across grades 3-5. …

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