CAP: Advancing Technology and Practice for Learning Reading and Writing Skills in Secondary Science Education

PIs: Rebecca Passonneau, Smaranda Muresan, Dolores Perin
Columbia University
Award Details

The proposed workshop brings together researchers and educators to discuss how to advance technology and practice to better promote secondary school science literacy. There is a clear need for new directions in science literacy. Over the past decade, the National Center for Education Statistics has consistently identified poor reading and writing skills as a serious problem, one which undoubtedly contributes to low science achievement. In addition, written and oral communication skills have been identified as a significant dimension of science practice and education. Secondary school, the focus of this workshop, is a critical period when students first experience a separation between subject matter and literacy. The resulting disciplinary silos may create discontinuities in students’ learning of both science content and literacy skills. It may be advantageous for instruction in science and the English language arts to be brought closer together at the secondary level, and to facilitate this through digital learning environments.

Secondary science education has benefited from a range of digital technologies, including computer supported collaborative learning systems (CSCL) and intelligent tutoring systems (ITS). The hypothesis motivating the workshop is that results from a decade of work in computer-based learning for science and inquiry can be applied to science literacy. One precondition is appropriate application of automated techniques to analyze the texts that students read and write, so as to provide students with tailored feedback in an online setting. A second precondition is to apply insights from the psychology of education on the acquisition of general literacy skills, and argumentation skills in particular, to foster evidence-based communication. The workshop includes researchers from the three critical areas of computer-based learning environments, natural language processing, and the psychology of education. It has three main goals. The first is to share results, datasets and demonstration systems in order to identify the potential for collaborations that would both deepen the analysis of existing data, and identify criteria for the collection of novel datasets that specifically address science literacy. The second workshop goal is to foster collaborations among researchers in the three disciplines, with participation from practitioners, to study the potential impact on students’ learning of science literacy skills. The third workshop goal is to identify mechanisms to foster an interdisciplinary community that will continue to investigate science literacy.

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