The effect of explicit writing instruction, scaffolded writing tasks and peer review on scientific writing and content mastery in a sophomore microbiology class

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


I examined the effect of teaching scientific writing on students' attitude about writing, on their ability to write lab reports and on their content mastery. In addition, I used an iterative writing approach and review process that replicates the process of writing in scientific research. Students were asked to write subsections of a scientific journal-style lab report in the same order as a scientist would write these subsections. Then, each subsection underwent a self- or instructor-review or a peer-review process. The peer review process that was used closely mimicked the process used by scientists when they submit a manuscript for publication in a scientific journal. To determine the effectiveness of these interventions, I gathered data using student interviews, attitude surveys, skills tests, lab reports and exam results. The iterative peer review process benefitted most students, particularly the high-achievers. Although students' general lab-report writing skills and ability to cite and reference sources improved, there was less improvement on lab report subsections requiring deeper analysis and reflection. Students' already positive attitudes improved, although there was no clear short-term benefit to content mastery.




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