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COEHD professor receives grant from NSF

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By: Jo Ann Jones, Communications Specialist/COEHD

Dr. Jorge Solís, assistant professor in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies, will join professors from three other universities across the nation for a collaborative, four-year project funded by the National Science Foundation Discovery Research K-12 Program.

Roughly $3 million in grant funds were awarded and divided among the four university project sites involved in the project, which is titled “Secondary Science Teaching with English Language and Literacy Acquisition” (SSTELLA). The UTSA SSTELLA team, headed by Solís, will receive approximately $624,000 of the grant for his portion of the project.

Over the next four years, Solís along with professors from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, will research and develop ways in which pre-service teachers, first-year teachers and second-year teachers can engage linguistically diverse classrooms to achieve academic success.

“We hope to find positive indications that certain types of support lead to more effective science teaching practices,” said Solís, lead investigator for The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) site. “We hope that the [findings], in turn, lead to greater student achievement at the secondary school level.”

According to Solís, he and his UTSA project team, which includes Dr. Kim Bilica, associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, and Dr. Lorena Claeys, executive director of the Academy for Teacher Excellence, will observe and support education students, specifically those studying to become secondary science teachers, from their last year at UTSA through their second year of teaching. This, he said, will give the project team a hands-on approach to helping these new science teachers engage culturally and linguistically diverse students through a variety of pedagogical activities.

“Issues of inequity loom large when talking about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education,” said Solís. “Females and language-minority students don’t do as well in STEM subjects as others. We hope that, with this project, we can close that marginalization.”

Solís said he plans to observe and capture highly successful science teachers in the San Antonio area practicing effective teaching techniques to develop video case studies. These case studies, he said, can be used later in university classrooms to teach education students how to teach in linguistically diverse classroom settings.

“A lot of education students have said to us, ‘What does it look like to teach in a certain way using a particular model? Can you give us an example?’” Solís said. “We’re hoping to show [education students] what is already going on in the classroom that is effective.”

Dr. Belinda Bustos Flores,  Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies chair, said she and her department are extremely proud of Solis’ award. 

“It is a great honor especially since few faulty in the COEHD have received an NSF because it is very competitive,” she said. “In addition to bringing recognition to the Bicultural-Bilingual department and the college, the attainment of this award and the collaboration with the three other prestigious universities supports UTSA’s goal to become a TIER I university.”

SSTELLA began on August 1 and will continue through 2017. Solís said that during that time, he hopes to secure an off-site research office and began working with area districts and teachers to advance his work on the project topic.

“Looking at the integration of language in content areas with diverse learners and teachers of diverse learners has been an ongoing effort, for me, for a number of years,” he said. “It’s exciting to be able to represent UTSA locally and nationally.”


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