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USING WRITING TO HELP STUDENTS CONSTRUCT AN UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENTIFIC AND MATHEMATICAL CONCEPTS Presented by Diane Miller CBAS Teaching

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Title: USING WRITING TO HELP STUDENTS CONSTRUCT AN UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENTIFIC AND MATHEMATICAL CONCEPTS Presented by Diane Miller CBAS Teaching


1
USING WRITING TO HELP STUDENTS CONSTRUCT AN
UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENTIFIC AND MATHEMATICAL
CONCEPTSPresented by Diane MillerCBAS Teaching
Learning Seminar
2
The objective of writing across the curriculum is
to improve the quality of writing.
3
The objective of writing to learn is to focus the
students thinking toward a better understanding
of the subject matter.
4
Students who use writing to learn often become
better writers.
  • Students who use writing in content classes often
    construct a better understanding of the subject
    matter.

5
Using writing to help students construct an
understanding of scientific and mathematical
concepts is a win-win practice for both
students and instructors.
6
Research tells us thatWriting in our classes can
  • Enhance learning
  • Help to diagnose misconceptions
  • Assess accumulated knowledge
  • Assess attitudes
  • Promote teacher-student interaction

7
Accumulated Knowledge Reflected in Writing
  • What is the meaning of acid?

8
What is the meaning of acid?
  • In Bacons day the word acid meant only
    sour-tasking
  • then it came to mean a sour tasting substance
  • then, a substance which reddens litmus
  • then, a compound that dissociates in aqueous
    solution to produce hydrogen ions
  • then, a compound or ion that can give protons to
    other substances
  • and most recently, a molecule or ion that can
    combine with another by forming a covalent bond
    with two electrons of the other. (Bazerman,
    1994, pg. 164)

9
Types of Writing
  • Journal writing
  • brainstorming with oneself
  • thinking in writing
  • ideas written down without
    evaluation

10
Journal Entry
  • What is a linear programming
  • problem?
  • I still dont know! It has
  • something to do with solving a
  • system of equations to find the
  • maximum or minimum value. Its
  • used for things such as
  • maximizing profits and minimizing
  • costs. The object is to find the
  • highest and lowest solutions. I
  • forgot about the constraints!
  • (Borasi Rose, 1989, pg. 355)

11
One teachers reflections on his students
journal entries
  • Three students recorded the same fact
  • from a lesson
  • one merely stated the fact,
  • one gave an example of how the fact might be
    used, and
  • the third entered into a discussion of how the
    fact is related to other facts and how its status
    is questioned.

12
Further analysis
  • The first student simply recounted what happened
    in class
  • The second student labeled the content in order
    to gain mastery and,
  • The third entered into a dialogue with himself
    about the interaction between a number of ideas.

13
Computerized journaling learning logs(Audet,
Hickman, Dobrynina, 1996, JRST)
  • Conducted a case study in an advanced physics
  • class. They found that learning logs -
  • provided students an opportunity to share
    thoughts observations, defend viewpoints, and
    negotiate consensus about their thinking
  • provided a vehicle for making knowledge public
  • provided an atmosphere for valuing and exploring
    the conceptual understanding of others and,
  • were a means for conducting an ongoing dialogue
    between instructor and students.

14
Types of Writing
  • Expository Writing
  • Asking students to explain, in writing, their
    thinking about a non-routine problem,
    mathematical investigation, or scientific
    experiment.

15
Research findings
  • Studies dating back to Bell Bell (1985) have
    shown that writing can be an effective and
    practical tool for teaching mathematical problem
    solving.
  • For students who have difficulty in solving a
    problem, writing is an opportunity to record the
    procedures used and the point at which confusion
    began.

16
Wang (1996) expounds on the use of expository
writing in university chemistry labs to enhance
students comprehension of concepts, improve
communication between students and instructor,
and also as an assessment instrument.
  • Describe what you see in detail . . .
  • Write a 50 to 100 word paragraph to explain . .
    .

17
Impromptu Writing Prompts(A type of expository
writing)
  • Simply worded statements or questions directing
    students thoughts to the explanation of a single
    concept, skill or generalization.
  • (Respond to prompt)

18
What can be learned by reading students
responses to impromptu writing prompts?
  • (Discuss example)

19
What can be learned about students understanding
of a subject from reading their responses to
impromptu writing prompts?
  • A teachers assessment of an individual students
    understanding of a subject can be enhanced by the
    knowledge gained from the students written
    responses.
  • Instructors, both experienced and inexperienced,
    can get a clearer picture much sooner of how
    students are thinking by reading students
    responses.

20
How are instructional practices influenced as a
result of reading students writings?
  • Immediate changes in instructional practices can
    be made in response to students feedback through
    writing.
  • Long-term improvement in classroom management and
    instructional practices may be induced in
    response to the new insights gained about
    students, about learning, and about teaching.

21
Changes in instructional practices
  • Reteaching immediately
  • Delaying an exam because a lack of understanding
    was reflected in students writings
  • Designing and scheduling a review based upon what
    was learned from students writings
  • Using writing prompts during a lesson, rather
    than at the beginning, to ascertain if students
    are understanding what is being presented.

22
How are student-teacher interaction patterns
influenced by regular classroom writings?
  • A more caring, non-threatening classroom
    atmosphere conducive to students asking
    questions and acknowledging the teachers
    commitment to continuous improvement, may be
    created by the mutual trust built through writing
    experiences.

23
Does Writing About Science Mathematics Improve
Learning About Science Mathematics?(Rillero,
et al., 1995, conference paper)
  • Writing promotes conceptual development.
    Before students write, they must first organize
    and develop their thoughts. Composing consists
    of joining concepts into relationships (Van
    Nostrand, 1979). By writing, an individual
    becomes aware of connections between concepts.
    Thus, writing is an important tool in the
    constructivist classroom.

24
Does Writing About Science Improve Learning About
Science?(Moore, 1993, JCST)
  • Yes, but only if students receive guided
    instruction about how to write-to-learn.
  • Unguided writing about a subject does not
    appreciably improve students writing skills or
    their understanding of the subject (Linden and
    Whimbey, 1990). (pg. 214)

25
Writing to Learn is BeneficialBut
  • Students must first learn to write!

26
Much evidence indicates that the ability to
write effectively is one of the most important
skills for a successful career in any profession,
especially science. (Moore, 1993, JCST, pg.
216)
27
  • Biotechnology companies rank communication
    skills (including writing) as the second-most
    important skill in prospective employees. These
    skills rank only slightly behind relevant work
    experience and rank far ahead of other factors
    such as chemistry background, personal
    recommendations, degree from a recognized
    program, broad biological background, GPA, and
    highly focused biological expertise (Davis,
    Korschgen, and Saigo, 1989)

28
The Neglected R The Need for a Writing
Revolution (2003)
  • (Statements from The Executive Summary)
  • Higher education should address the special roles
    it has to play in improving writing.
  • Writing should be assigned across the curriculum.
  • Writing opportunities should be provided to every
    student, from the earliest years through
    secondary school and into college.
  • University faculty in all disciplines should have
    access to professional development opportunities
    to help them improve student writing.

29
Writing A Ticket to Work . . . Or a Ticket Out
(2004)
  • Writing is a threshold skill for both
    employment and promotion, particularly for
    salaried employees.
  • Two-thirds of salaried employees in large
    American companies have some writing
    responsibility.
  • More than half of all responding companies report
    that salaried employees frequently or almost
    always produce technical reports, formal
    reports, and memos and correspondence.
  • Because of e-mail, more employees have to write
    more often.
  • It appears that remedying deficiencies in writing
    may cost American firms as much as 3.1 billion
    annually.

30
MTSU GENERAL EDUCATION PILOTCollege Base(Basic
Academic College Examination)
Writing Avg.
Fall 2000 273
Spring 2001 303
Fall 2001 285
Spring 2002 287
Fall 2002 275
Spring 2003 293
Fall 2003 280
Spring 2004 288
Score Range 40-560
31
MTSU GENERAL EDUCATION PILOTCollege Base(Basic
Academic College Examination
Writing
Range 100-130
Summer 2000 117.60
Fall 2000 117.10
Spring 2001 117.60
Summer 2001 117.20
Fall 2001 115.59
Spring 2002 115.93
Summer 2002 115.80
Fall 2002 115.46
Spring 2003 115.86
Summer 2003 115.43
Fall 2003 116.00
Spring 2004 115.95
32
Help students become better writers by asking
them to write-to-learn!
33
Types of Writing
  • Transactional writing
  • is meant to be read by an audience.
  • Examples include laboratory reports, research
    papers, and manuscripts for publication.

34
Effective Writing Tips
  • Put the reason for writing up front
  • Use short words
  • Use concise sentences
  • Write in the active voice
  • Avoid jargon
  • Dont begin sentences with it is, or there
    are.
  • Use proper spelling and grammar
  • Demand high standards

35
Additional Tips
  • Eliminate unnecessary prepositions
  • Example The cells respond to foreign proteins
    by rapidly dividing and starting to produce
    antibodies reactive to the protein groups that
    induced their production.

36
In the presence of foreign proteins, the cells
divide rapidly and produce antibodies against
those proteins.
37
  • Avoid weak verbs
  • Example The fidelity of DNA replication is
    dependent on the fact that DNA is a
    double-stranded polymer held together by weak
    chemical interactions between the nucleotides on
    opposite DNA strands.

38
The fidelity of DNA replication depends on DNA
being a double-stranded polymer held together by
weak chemical interactions between the
nucleotides on opposite DNA strands.
39
Do not overuse the passive voice
  • Passive Little is known of the nutritional
    requirements of these animals.
  • Active We know little about the nutritional
    requirements of these animals.
  • Passive The results were interpreted as
    indicative of . . .
  • Active The results indicated . . .

40
Resources
  • Writing in the Sciences Exploring Conventions of
    Scientific Discourse by Penrose Katz (1998)
  • A Short Guide to Writing About Biology
  • by Pechenick (2004)

41
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