Supporting the development of professional skills in scientific writing – 2014 UTS T&L forum

My colleagues, Andy Leigh and Neela Griffiths, and I were chosen to present our work at the 2014 UTS Teaching and Learning Forum. The forum was held on 12 and 13 November, and provided an opportunity for the sharing of ideas and innovations in learning and teaching at UTS. Our work was funded by a 2014 UTS Vice Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching grant and a 2014 UTS First Year Experience Grant.

Slide01Scientific writing is a fundamental skill for scientists to communicate effectively to the scientific and wider community. Responding to a need to embed the development of paraphrasing and referencing skills early in the science curriculum, online interactive learning resources were designed for a large (>650 students) core first year environmental science subject. Using the flipped learning approach, the online pre-class activities were partnered with a redesigned face-to-face tutorial, which incorporated peer-to-peer and teacher-to-peer interaction. Prior to this initiative, students received a mini lecture on referencing standards, with no opportunity to practice referencing and paraphrasing prior to their major assessment (scientific report).

The aims of this project were to:

  1. Increase student engagement with the ‘Professional skills’ Graduate Attribute,
  2. Improve students’ approach to using current online technology to effectively find peer-reviewed articles for use in scientific writing, and
  3. Build student understanding of what constitutes plagiarism and academic integrity in the scientific discipline, and how these relate to being a professional scientist.

By addressing these aims, we hoped to achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Develop student confidence in using and citing the primary literature correctly for successful scientific writing, and
  2. Improve student skills in paraphrasing for the scientific discipline and correctly citing the scientific literature.

Slide08Although the online activities were not worth any marks, most students completed the online interactive tutorial on paraphrasing prior to class. A feature of the interactive tutorial included immediate feedback on quiz answers and the option to review or retake the tutorial. We received positive feedback about the online resources and the redesigned face-to-face collaborative tutorial from our students:

Slide24

Slide25

Students indicated that the opportunity to practice referencing and paraphrasing skills in class before writing their major scientific report was very beneficial. Students also consulted the online resources repeatedly when writing up their reports indicating that the discipline-specific resources were a valuable inclusion. Students also agreed that they could see the link between the skills developed in the tutorials and graduate attributes.

Our plan is to refine the online resources and in class paraphrasing activity based on feedback from our students and teaching associates, and we will continue to develop the resources to support the development of scientific writing skills in first year.

Presentation details:

Title: Supporting the development of professional skills in scientific writing: an embedded, flipped and interactive approach to citing and paraphrasing the scientific literature

Authors: Yvonne Davila, Neela Griffiths, Andy Leigh

Keywords: academic integrity, scientific writing, flipped learning, professional skills, Science, first year, referencing, avoiding plagiarism

Date presented: 12 November 2014

Forum: UTS Teaching and Learning Forum 2014

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