English Language Learners (ELLs)
Common English words such as believe, claim, or consider can be problematic for nonnative speakers. However, some vocabulary in chemistry has Latin origins, so students who speak Spanish or other Latin-based languages may easily relate to these terms. ELLs may also struggle with prepositions, idiomatic expressions, and words having multiple meanings (e.g., mole, set, model, or right).
Students or teachers may produce visual representations of important words to ensure all students properly comprehend the concept. Breaking down words may be a helpful way to make vocabulary more meaningful to all students, not just ELLs.
When learning chemical symbols, students can be challenged to determine which country was named for silver (Argentina, from the Latin argentum). Breaking down words is a useful tool: Exothermic – diagram the word showing exo = out, therm = heat
Model-based assessment frequently provides equal access to demonstrating content knowledge. The creative diagramming aspect of the model means that ELL students, and others, can demonstrate their understanding without worrying about vocabulary, and it simultaneously allows students to demonstrate a true conceptual understanding, not just memorization of vocabulary.
Chemistry for All Students
Teachers need to understand and build on the cultural resources (knowledge, interests, and experiences) that students bring to the practice of scientific argumentation. This can increase their engagement and inclusion, especially for students from nondominant communities.
Selecting culturally relevant phenomena helps engage all learners. To support the diverse cultural and economic backgrounds of students, culturally strong lessons are instrumental in the classroom. Consider adopting the 12 key elements[x] in effective teaching for ethnic and language minority students.
Help Students See Themselves in Science
Chemists and chemistry professionals are as diverse as the elements on the periodic table. ACS has a statement on diversity that speaks to how accepting a diverse community is beneficial, and it includes resources ACS offers to promote and support a diverse community. In the classroom, teaching that the chemistry field is open to all people might include showcasing leaders and highlighting biographies of individuals who contributed to and are currently pioneering the field of chemistry. In addition to the ones mentioned in the ACS diversity statement, other resources that teachers can rely on to support and promote diversity include:
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but these resources may be good starting points that instructors can reference.