Since the early two 2,000s, there has been a movement to improve the use of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education within public schools (Hallinen, 2019). This movement has frequently focused on integrating the use of project-based activities that students to promote students’ learning. However, science and social studies curricula often include large amounts of reading and new vocabulary, which can increase the difficulty students experience when attempting to comprehend basic content knowledge (Espin et al., 2013). This struggle can develop as early as the fourth grade and can increase over time (Lembke et al., 2017). In 2015, the National Center for Education Services (NCES; 2018) reported that 64% of fourth-grade students scored within the basic or below basic range on the state standardized assessments. According to data collected by the Illinois State Board of Education (2018), 47% of fifth-grade students who participated in the Illinois State Science Assessment scored within the not proficient range. Students may continue to experience difficulty in content areas, as the NCES reported that 63% of students in the eighth-grade produced scores that were below rudimentary knowledge of science concepts (Conoyer et al., 2019; NCES, 2018).
To support students’ acquisition of skills in STEM content areas, they require solid foundational knowledge. Having a solid grasp of vocabulary is critical for students’ comprehension of lessons related to many subjects because it creates a bridge between reading fluency and comprehension (Lembke et al., 2017). Unfortunately, vocabulary words can pose a challenge to students due to the large number of terms, as well as the new information they represent. For example, the terms used in content area curriculums may label information or ideas that are abstract and more difficult for students to understand Some terms may have multiple definitions or meanings that may also contribute to the students’ struggle with learning new terms (Bravo & Cervetti, 2008).
Novel vocabulary terms are generally related to the overall concept of a lesson, which requires students to understand the new terms in order to grasp the lesson as a whole (Bravo & Cervetti, 2008). If a student’s fluency and comprehension are interrupted, their inability to read content-specific text may put them at risk for failing content area courses (Lembke et al., 2017). Students who lack the understanding and comprehension of terms may fall behind and their academic performance may be negatively affected in the future (Bravo & Cervetti, 2008).
The content areas of science and social studies may provide numerous opportunities for students to enhance and use their vocabulary knowledge; however, it may also be extremely challenging due to the amount of reading required for these subjects (Espin et al., 2013; Lembke et al., 2017). Challenges in the areas of reading and writing may be due to a student’s cognitive abilities related to decoding, vocabulary knowledge, and working memory (Espin & Busch, 2003). These content areas tend to have numerous terms each week that are associated with new units, and if students fall behind, they may not understand the important concepts that lay the foundation for future units to build upon (Vannest, Parker, & Dyer, 2011).
|Advisor:||Conoyer, Sarah J.|
|Commitee:||McKenney, Elizabeth, Jewell, Jeremy|
|School:||Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville|
|School Location:||United States -- Illinois|
|Source:||MAI 81/12(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Science, Vocabulary-matching, STEM|
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