Improving student writing in science: A help or hindrance

Year: 2005

Author: Gregson, Robyn

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Abstract:
In recent times there has been much debate about the literacy levels of students in our schools such that Federal and State Governments have provided extensive resources to improve the literacy standards of our tertiary, primary and secondary students. This paper reports data from a teacher-research study that used an action research scaffold to assess how a literacy intervention (answer modelling) changes students' ability to record their understanding of scientific concepts in writing.

The answer modelling activity was developed in response to the literature that compared the writing behaviours of 'novice and 'expert' writers. Expert writers have a clear appreciation of how their writing will be received by an audience and understand that revision plays an important role in the composing process. Whereas novice writers fail to recognise the key elements of writing and can often struggle with the mechanics of writing which plays a major role in the fluency of student writing.

It was found that students disliked writing however, they wanted to improve their writing skills What proved an interesting finding was the unexpected effect that the writing intervention had on the students' answers to short-answer questions.

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