09 SES 06 C JS, The Role of Language and Family Characteristics for Mathematics and Science Achievement: Focus on immigration
Joint Paper Session NW 09, NW 14 and NW 24
The present comparative study examines differences in science affect by student immigrant status and home language in six countries: France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The guiding research question was, “To what extent do first-generation, second-generation, and native students experience different levels of enjoyment of science, interest in broad science topics, science self-efficacy, and science activities in each country?” To answer this question, researchers analyzed the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The research is grounded in prior empirical studies that support home, school, and cultural factors regarding the different levels of interest and participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). These considerations are connected with literature regarding science learning and home language, and are contextualized with the differing political contexts in the six countries regarding immigrant education.
Often students who receive instruction in a language other than their native language will have more challenges in a subject, especially science. For example, a study in the United Kingdom found that students who speak English as a second language often face so many challenges, often the challenge in learning the language is greater than the students’ motivation in the subject (Diamantatou & Hawes). Mifsud and Farrugia found that science students in Malta were being taught in science predominantly in Maltese while almost other subjects were taught in English. In Russia, Sadykova and Shelestova found that in learning a subject in a second language, students had to both learn the practical component of the language, as well as have their own personality develop with the language. In the United States, Welsh, Shaw, and Fox found that there was success in English Language Learners (ELL) taking science classes as a corequisite to an English language course. There are also some positives to taking science in a language other than the native language as well. In a study comparing Turkey with other countries such as France, Blanchard, Masserot, and Holbrook found that science has a multitude of hands-on activities, which can benefit the student in acquiring the non-native language. The (2009) report, Integrating Immigrant Children into Schools in Europe documents differing language policies across the six countries of study. While some countries provide a centralized assurance of instruction in the students’ home language, other contexts leave this to local implementation.
Much research supports that the family is the primary sphere in which individuals are provided material, emotional, and symbolic resources, and that these are unequally distributed (Kendig and Bianchi 2008). Typically, socio-economic status (SES) of families is the presumed fundamental cause and means by which home culture influences academic outcomes. However, some research suggests family practice should be considered separately from SES and in light of cultural factors, such as immigrant status. For example, a longitudinal study in the United Kingdom of family influence on students’ approach to science learning found that while SES was important, factors unrelated to SES appeared to be more salient influences on student science aspirations. These included positive or negative family expectations, encouragement or discouragement, and fostering science in everyday family life (Archer et al. 2012). Other research shows family practice such as parents and children together working together with technologies positively influences children’s technological competence (Barron et al. 2009). These co-production practices may not map directly with socio-economic background given technical vocational occupations of many working class parents (Buckingham 2007; Simpkins, Davis-Kean and Eccles 2005). Indeed, research suggests that while learning in general is predicted by SES, cultural practice and social-psychological factors may be more important for participation and achievement in STEM (Xie, Fang and Shauman 2015).
To conduct this quantitative study, researchers obtained the 2015 PISA datasets, codebooks, and questionnaires directly from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) website, located at http://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2015database/. The researchers analyzed the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) student-questionnaire Statistical Program for the Social Sciences (SPSS) data file. Researchers split the SPSS file by country. They analyzed the weighted likelihood estimator (WLE) variables of enjoyment of science, interest in broad science topics, science self-efficacy, and science activities. The resultant sample included over 42,000 adolescent students from the six countries. Each variable consists of multiple items from the 2015 PISA. In addition to conducting two-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) using immigrant status and home language within countries, researchers conducted descriptive statistics to explore between-country differences. Enjoyment of science has been a subjective term, but it has been proposed that enjoyment of science may be linked to achievement in science. For example, in Canada, Areepattamannil et al. (2011) also found a link between science enjoyment and achievement through hierarchical linear modeling. On the PISA 2015, it is measured using five items with four point Likert scale for agreement. Empirical research shows that interest in broad science topics can be explained by social context (SES) and social-psychological factors (Cheryan et al. 2009; Murphy, Steele and Gross 2007). Studies show that home and school socialization influence STEM interest (Fredricks and Eccles 2002; Herbert and Stipek 2005; Jacobs, Chhin and Bleeker 2006; Jacobs et al. 2005). On the PISA 2015, interest in broad science topics is measured through five items. Research shows that differences in participation in STEM education later in postsecondary education may be due to differences in interest earlier in life (Legewie and DiPrete 2014b; Ma 2011; Perez-Felkner et al. 2012; Sadler et al. 2012). Empirical research shows that interest in STEM can be explained by social context (SES) and social-psychological factors (Cheryan et al. 2009; Murphy, Steele and Gross 2007). Science activities are also measured in five Likert scale items. Self-efficacy is defined as “People’s beliefs about their capabilities to perform a task successfully at designated levels” (Bandura, 1986). Wang and Tsai define it as “the specific beliefs that people have in their ability to do learning” (2016). Science self-efficacy is measured through eight items on the 2015 PISA.
In many countries and variables, first- and second-generation students tended to have similar enjoyment of science, interest in science activities, self-efficacy, and science activities. A few differences were noted in the United States and the United Kingdom. Generally speaking, home language corresponded with significant differences in the constructs of study. Researhers also noted interaction effects between home language and immigrant status in the United States, United Kingdom and Italy. Not surprisingly, differences tended to appear in enjoyment of science and science self-efficacy. In addition, it appeared that in countries with centralized policies regarding language instruction, these significant differences were less likely to occur. While much of the research literature emphasizes home and school factors, there may additional gender effects based on broader cultural processes. For example, research shows pervasive cultural cues about STEM occupations such as science being a male domain and the lack of female role models and mentors in STEM explains differences by gender (Carrell, Page and West 2010; Cheryan et al. 2011; Stout et al. 2011). Therefore, there may be differing gender effects across countries. While the 2015 PISA is limited to 15-year-old students, research shows that differences in participation in STEM later in postsecondary education may be due to differences in interest earlier in life (Legewie and DiPrete 2014b; Ma 2011; Perez-Felkner et al. 2012; Sadler et al. 2012). Future research should explore the cultural factors that may be support girls’ science interest and affect; these factors might correspond with the between-country differences noted in the present study.
Blanchard, B., Masserot, V., & Holbrook, J. (2014). The profiles project: Promoting teaching science in a foreign language. Science Education International. 25(2) pg. 78-96 Diamantatou, C. & Hawes, T. (2017). Foreign language learning, motivation, and the market economy. Journal of Education and Learning. 5(1), pg. 95-103 Education and Migration, strategies for integrating migrant children in European schools and societies. A synthesis of research findings for policy-makers. Report submitted to the European Commission by Prof. Dr. Friedrich Heckmann, on behalf of the Nesse network of experts. April 2008, pp. 48-49 Eurydice. (2009). Integrating Immigrant Children into Schools in Europe. Mifsud, J. & Farrugia, J. (2017). Language choice for science education: policy and practice. The Curriculum Journal, pages 83-104 Sadykova, A. & Shelestova, O. (2017). Creativity development: The role of foreign language learning. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education. 11(15) pgs. 8163- 8181 Tsui M. 2005. Family income, home environment, parenting, and mathematics achievement of children in China and the United States. Educ. Urban Soc. 37(3):336–55 Tyson, Will, Reginald Lee, Kathryn M. Borman, and Mary Ann Hanson. 2007. "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Pathways: High School Science and Math Coursework and Postsecondary Degree Attainment." Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 12(3):243–70. Welsh, A. Shaw, A., Fox, J. (2017). The pairing of a science communications and a language course to enrich first year English language learners’ writing and argumentation skills. Journal of College Science Teaching, Pages 64 -74 Xie, Yu, Michael Fang, and Kimberlee Shauman. 2015. "STEM Education." Annual Review of Sociology 41:331-57.
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