Writing to Learn for NOS Scientific Literacy: Evaluation and Research Implications of A Curriculum for Historical Geology
AuthorWright, Carrie L.
AffiliationUniversity of Southern indiana
TitleWriting to Learn for NOS Scientific Literacy: Evaluation and Research Implications of A Curriculum for Historical Geology
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Scientific literacy is a primary goal of undergraduate introductory science education, and yet measures of this crucial pedagogical outcome among U.S. citizens indicate it is mediocre at best. Scientifically literate citizens have sufficient understanding of the concepts and the nature of science (NOS)—and how to communicate that knowledge in writing—to actively participate and make decisions in a global society grappling with issues such as climate change. However, understandings of the NOS and how to communicate science are lacking in many university students, both science majors and non-majors, leading to misconceptions that create barriers to scientific literacy. As an educational strategy to improve scientific literacy, Writing to Learn (WTL) is effective because it aligns with attributes of successful learning such as reinforcement, encourages students to emulate the languaging processes of building scientific knowledge, and also provides students with opportunities for the critical thinking, synthesis, and analysis needed for effectively engaging with and communicating science. A WTL curriculum was developed for and implemented in a historical geology course for majors and non-majors (N=22) to improve students’ scientific communication skills and scientific literacy in the NOS. Curriculum assignments include pre-writing, critical reading, in-class writing, instruction in argumentation, a research essay, structured peer review, revision plans, group work and field presentations designed to emulate science epistemology. Evaluation of pedagogical effectiveness was performed by comparing NOS literacy exhibited in student pre-writing with that exhibited in subsequent work, through analysis of the form and content of students’ written arguments, and an end-of-course survey. This paper will present the results of these evaluative measures in addition to describing each part of the curriculum and its theoretical underpinnings in science education research and composition studies, and discuss implications for future implementation and research. Results indicate that engaging students in the study of science through language arts—critical reading of and writing about scientific texts and the NOS—enhances the majority of students’ scientific literacy.