Spring 2018



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Julia Reimer

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Jill Watson

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Martha Mason-Miller


This research explored the effects of using structured oral interactions as a scaffolding technique on the use and development of scientific classification language and the ability to engage in cognitively more complex academic tasks for students with limited or interrupted formal education. The study took place during a vertebrates unit in an EL newcomers science classroom. Students engaged in an intervention of two cycles of routinized, content-integrated, structured academic (RISA) oral interactions. Students were tasked to classify animals and to record video samples from the prompt, “What kind of animal is this? How do you know?” before and after the intervention. Responses were mapped conceptually and analyzed through a transitivity process analysis lens from systemic functional linguistics. Elements studied include occurrences of generic referent, intensive and possessive relational processes and uses of classification key lexis. Student responses were also measured for word speed fluency. The results found improvements between pre-intervention and post-intervention samples in the linguistic complexity and accuracy of student responses. Improvements included increased use of generic referent, relational processes and key vocabulary. Additionally, most students moved from descriptions in the pre-assessment to classifications in the post-assessment, demonstrating an increased ability to conceptualize in English. Fluency of samples declined as students transitioned from summation-based responses to classifying responses. The implications from the data suggested a direct relationship between RISA oral interactions and improvements in student responses.

Research Methodology

Action Research


Brain-based Learning, ESL/ ELLs, Learning Styles, Science

Included in

Education Commons