The Department of Science Education at California State University, Chico is committed to providing the North State with the highest quality science education for all learners, programs for teacher subject matter preparation and professional development, and research on teaching and learning to promote scientific appreciation and understanding.
Science Ed Teams Up with English to Improve Writing in the Sciences
Irene Salter and Leslie Atkins have partnered with Kim Jaxon, a composition faculty member from the Department of English, to rethink how writing instruction in science courses.
When one considers science writing in undergraduate classrooms, the formal lab report is generally the first thing to come to mind. However, mastering this genre is of little benefit to non-majors who are unlikely to ever encounter, read, or write a scientific research report beyond the confines of a science course. In addition, most undergraduates are completely unaware that a scientist’s research report is the product of a range of informal writing that happened along the way (scribbles in a notebook, notes in the margins of papers, presentations at lab meetings and conferences, e-mails to colleagues, etc.).
Therefore, this project asks: How can science instructors engage undergraduates in authentic writing and literacy practices that offer skills that can be leveraged in other settings beyond the science classroom? Can students eventually develop the academic language, precision, inscriptions, and argumentation patterns common to communication in professional scientific research and science writing communities without relying on the lab report as the only model? How can science instructors, who rarely receive any training in writing instruction, be better prepared to teach students to write well in science?
The 3 faculty will use NSCI 321, Scientific Inquiry as a test bed to develop an instructor’s guide, “Composing Science: A Facilitator’s Guide to Scientific Writing,” for use by science faculty. The instructor’s guide will provide concrete pedagogical strategies for implementing best practices in writing instruction (drawn from resources such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Writing Project) within the context of any undergraduate course where students engage in scientific inquiry. New pedagogical strategies will be developed as necessary.