Success through Science Notebooks

A tool for enhancing academic language fluency for English Language Learners.


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.

Celebrating Our 2016 Summer & Fall Doctoral Graduates

Dean Kim Metcalf and the College of Education proudly congratulate our 2016 Summer & Fall Doctoral Graduates! We wish you luck and continued success and as you forge forward in your careers.

Left to Right: Robbie J. Marsh, Ph.D., Derek Jordan, Ph.D., Dean Kim K. Metcalf, Ph.D., Cristina Salinas Grandy, Ph.D., Matthew Nishimoto, Ph.D. and Andrew Goodman, Ph.D.

Educational & Clinical Studies

Robbie J. Marsh, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: School Connectedness: Comparing Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders to Their General Education Peers
Co-Advisors: Kyle Higgins, Ph.D. and Joseph Morgan, Ph.D.

Teaching & Learning

Khaled Alnajjar, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: A Multiple Case Study Analysis of Mentor-Mentee Perception of the Effectiveness of Self-Disclosure in the Field Experience
Advisor: Shaoan Zhang, Ph.D.

Abdullah Al-Shukri, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: From Belief to Action: Omani EFL Teachers’ Self-Efficacy in Relation to their Teaching of English as a Foreign Language
Advisor: Shaoan Zhang, Ph.D.

Andrew Goodman, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: The Manifestation of Student Engagement in Classrooms: A Phenomenological Case Study of How Teachers Experience Student Engagement and How It Influences Pedagogical Decision Making
Advisor: Christine Clark, Ed.D.

Derek Jordan, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: Investigating Teacher Learning and Change in a PLC that Designs Integrated Curriculum
Co-Advisors: Marilyn McKinney, Ph.D. and Shaoan Zhang, Ph.D.

Matthew Nishimoto, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: Secondary Preservice Teacher Expectations of the Principal’s Role in New Teacher Induction
Advisor: Shaoan Zhang, Ph.D.

Heather Skaza, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: Development and Testing of an Assessment to Measure Spatial Thinking About Enhanced Greenhouse Effect
Advisor: P.G. Schrader, Ph.D.

Cristina Salinas Grandy, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: An Analysis of Reflective Thinking in Teacher Candidates’ ePortfolios
Advisor: Linda Quinn, Ed.D.

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Marissa Owens

Marissa Owens, COE alumna, works with NASA and Teledyne Brown Engineering to improve training environments.


Dr. Marissa Owens, a Ph.D. graduate in Learning and Technology, is living the dream of working for Teledyne Brown Engineering and NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, in a distinguished postdoctoral scholar position. Her specific role as a postdoctoral scholar is to update NASA training materials for a digital environment. Owens notes, “It’s becoming more of an online course, which will be taken by new hires of NASA. They have to learn about different aspects of their jobs and all that goes along with being a NASA employee- acronyms and all.” Owens cites the doctoral education she earned in Learning and Technology in the College of Education as instrumental to her job success: “[The agencies] wanted someone that could understand the technology and ground it in learning theory; that’s why it’s important to have someone on the team with an Education background.”

Owens reflects, “This postdoc is so interesting because it’s not traditional – it’s in fact, very unique.” Further, she notes that the support of departmental faculty in the Department of Educational Psychology & Higher Education, particularly from her doctoral advisor (Dr. Michael Nussbaum) and department chair (Dr. LeAnn Putney), opened up many opportunities- including this one.