Research Findings

NSF DRK-12 Project Outcomes Summary

ESTELL Research Findings

The goal of Effective Science Teaching for English Language Learners (ESTELL) project was to design, implement and evaluate a comprehensive, integrated model of pre-service elementary science teacher education by adapting a model of linguistically and culturally responsive pedagogy developed by the Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence that prior research has demonstrated significantly improves the achievement of English Language Learners (ELLs). Prior research on this approach has been conducted in the classrooms of experienced teachers. This project extended the work to pre-service teacher education.


We compared pre-service teacher candidates in an treatment and a “business-as-usual” comparison group. The primary research questions posed were:

  1. Are there significant differences between the knowledge, beliefs and practice of elementary student and beginning teachers who participate in the ESTELL pre-service teacher education program when compared to student and beginning teachers who are not trained in the ESTELL model?
  2. Is the use of ESTELL teaching practices by ESTELL teacher education program graduates associated with higher K-6 student science achievement when compared to the achievement K-6 students in the classrooms of non-ESTELL beginning teachers?


The treatment involved two components: 1) An ESTELL-infused teacher education science methods course for pre-service teachers seeking certification to work in K through 8th grade classrooms and; 2) Placement of pre-service teachers in the treatment condition in a clinical site where the cooperating teacher participated in ESTELL-focused professional development (PD) activities. These PD activities paralleled those experienced by the pre-service teacher in the science methods course and also included a component of effective mentoring strategies.

Our study participants included a baseline control from 2008-09, in 2009-10 we conducted Phase One implementation, and in 2010-2011 Phase Two of our ESTELL treatment, with a total sample of 554 pre-service teachers.

We analyzed data gathered from a researcher constructed and tested attitudinal survey and classroom observation instrument. We used analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) and ordinary least squares (OLS) regression to examine the study results. Since other factors can influence the implementation of the ESTELL pedagogy, we also tested whether or not the impact of the treatment was moderated by other contextual factors such as teacher demographic characteristics (ethnicity, gender, age), schooling information (undergraduate major in college), and information about the racial diversity of the neighborhoods where participants grew up.

In order to provide a more robust examination of the impact of the ESTELL intervention, we examined the effects of the treatment outcomes on the teacher beliefs survey among the intervention group, the control group, and the baseline control group. We found that the treatment condition pre-service teachers held stronger beliefs about the efficacy of the ESTELL practices than the comparison group and baseline comparison group. More specifically, the survey results showed that pre-service teachers’ beliefs about the ESTELL pedagogy were higher on five of the six practices in relation to the comparison groups.

In order to examine the level of implementation of the ESTELL practices, teacher candidates were observed during their student-teaching practicum by a trained observer using an observation instrument. The ESTELL treatment group scored higher on all six domains of the ESTELL pedagogy, relative to the comparison group. Analysis of these results suggest that the ESTELL intervention preservice teachers scored higher and were able to make more connections between students’ home/community/personal and ecological experiences as well as being more successful at integrating science talk to science instructional activities.

One key findings from this project is that pre-service teachers in the treatment group strengthened their beliefs about the ESTELL pedagogy in science when these practices were explicitly labeled, modeled and they received feedback on their enactment of these practices from their cooperating teacher. Science teacher educators who plan to enhance the manner in which they address the needs of ELLs in their courses should unpack ELL pedagogy for novices, and to craft experiences for pre-service teachers that revisit these practices often.

A second key finding is that greater alignment between pre-service teacher experiences in the teacher education program with what they see and experience in their field practicum is needed. More conversations between methods instructors and cooperating teachers can create a more coherent pre-service experience for beginning teachers.

Integrating the ESTELL pedagogy and science education with guidance from science methods instructors and support from cooperating teachers shows promise in assisting pre-service teachers to enhance their science teaching by considering the cultural and linguistic resources that are present among the students they work with in schools. These efforts can ensure the next generation of educators are making science more accessible to all students and hence begin to address the persistent science achievement gap.