Conference time: -
Writing for scientists

"Laboratory Reports, Reflective Essays, and the Contributing Student Approach"
Dr John Hamer, University of Auckland, New Zealand

"Integrating feedforward on academic writing into an undergraduate science course"
Dr Charlotte Taylor, University of Syndney, Australia

Expert facilitator: Dr Colin Milligan, Univesrity of Strathclyde, UK - 
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Please download case studies by both authors by clicking the links below.

folder icon Read the Hamer case study (Download will open in a new window)

Overview: Requesting reflective essays instead of technical reports has led to students observing more, writing more, developing their own personal writing style, and becoming more self-aware and self-critical. The essays complement a course taught using Collis’ Contributing Student Approach by providing a rich source of material for use in subsequent learning resources such as course notes and self-evaluation quizzes. They also provide timely feedback, both for the students and for the lecturer, and help foster a collaborative, supportive learning environment.

folder icon Read the Taylor case study (Download will open in a new window)

Overview: This case study describes a major initiative in providing feedback to students engaged in writing activities in a first year science unit. The Writing in Biology program has provided interesting challenges, mainly associated with the large number of students and staff involved (n=1000 and 50 respectively). We have however persisted in this endeavour since we consider writing an essential component of the undergraduate curriculum, which must be integral to learning from the beginning of the degree program. Activities include a series of opportunities for practicing writing, individual face-to-face feedback sessions for all students, and an online discussion forum during the writing process. Students and staff have actively engaged with the activities, and evaluations have consistently indicated enthusiasm for more practice and feedback opportunities. We have also incorporated a series of educational research projects into this program so that we can better understand how students learn while writing.

Session Details

A chat session was held here with the Authors and Expert facilitator on the 31st May from  08:00 - 09:00 UK time (BST). You may view a transcript of this chat from the link below.

folder icon Chat transcript - Writing for scientists

The discussion forum will be open throughout the conference, and can be accessed through the 'Join the discussion' link below.


Join the Discussion

Use the 'Join the Discussion' link to view all the posts for this session. As a taster, below are the last 5 posts for this session's discussion fora.

RE: Responding to reviewer's comments Colin Milligan | 31/05/2007 11:26
Colin MilliganHello Charlotte, Thanks for the clarification, the level of embedding here is great - you must have had to drag some of the other faculty kicking and screaming to get the curriculum redesigned in this way - as I said in the chat, science labs are fu...
RE: My response to Colin's review questions Colin Milligan | 31/05/2007 11:14
Colin MilliganHello John Thanks for taking the time to reply to the questions posted in my review. I was really impressed by the role of reflective essays in this course, and I think my questions reflect an underlying interest in teasing out whether this was e...
RE: One view of why these studies belong together CharlotteTaylor | 31/05/2007 07:46
CharlotteTaylorIn terms of discipline specific- also try to make the links for students about writing to learn biology, so that writing isn't seen as something extra imposed on top of or outside the biology being studied. We have evidence that students who see thi...
RE: One view of why these studies belong together John Hamer | 31/05/2007 07:18
John HamerI would add a discipline-specific comment: introductory programming invariably involves students writing computer programs that form the sole item for assessment. So, what is left to write about? There is no experiment to describe, no results (othe...
My response to Colin's review questions John Hamer | 31/05/2007 07:03
John HamerWhat was the impetus for the introduction of reflective essays? Making an easy path for students to get used to writing. I want writing to become a routine activity for my students, given its central importance in communication and in org...