Teaching Writing in Introductory Physics: the Good, the Bad, and the Revision

By Scott Bonham

Physics and Astronomy, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY

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Written communication is an important skill in almost every field, including science and engineering. Over the last five years I have been evaluating different approaches for teaching and supporting development of technical writing skills. A common approach is providing students with written guidance, practice and feedback from instructor. Allowing the option of revising reports for a better grade was not seen to really help improving writing. More effective has been explicit instruction and support through providing a grading rubric, having students use it to grade a good and bad example, and building up to writing full reports, adding a section each week. This year in addition I have been evaluating having students preparing full reports on only a third of the experiments and then using peer review, revision and resubmission to increase learning from those. The quality of student writing at the end of the semester was comparable between students doing peer review and those not, while work load for students and instructors was reduced. Students also expressed preference for peer review. Helping students provide quality feedback to each other was also seen to be crucial for effective use of peer review and revision.

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  • Scott Bonham (2015), "Teaching Writing in Introductory Physics: the Good, the Bad, and the Revision," https://nanohub.org/resources/22185.

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298 Physics, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN