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Inquiry-based Science and English Language Development

Inquiry-based Science and English Language Development

Exploring the connections between science learning and language development.

Inquiry-based Science and English Language Development

Inquiry-based science and English language development are a natural fit.

Inquiry-based science is a powerful way to learn science, regardless of a student’s language background. When students ask questions, write observations, make predictions, share their thinking, and reason and debate with each other, they are using language to make authentic and meaningful connections to the scientific phenomena they are investigating. When English language learners are supported by teachers to fully participate in inquiry-based science, the increased communication and sophisticated uses of language that take place during investigations engage them in linguistic work that can support English language development.


Classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse.

The linguistic diversity of K–12 classrooms has been rapidly increasing in every part of the country. By 2030, English will be the second language of approximately 40 percent of school-age children in the United States. This shift, along with changing standards in science, math, and English language arts, places heightened demands on teachers.


Teachers need support to foster a language-rich, content-rich environment for science learning.

In 2010, the Institute for Inquiry began a district-wide partnership with the Sonoma Valley Unified School District to provide all elementary school teachers with an intensive program of professional development. This program, which experimented with new approaches to professional development, was designed to equip teachers with classroom strategies that support science as a context for English language development.

An Educators Guide for Inquiry-based Science and English Language Development shares the Institute for Inquiry’s approach to their work in Sonoma. It highlights professional development design and teaching practices that can serve as resources for teachers, teacher educators, professional development providers, district leaders, and researchers.


This program and the contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Investing in Innovation (i3) Program. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.

Additional funding for this project was provided by the Vadasz Family Foundation and the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.