Project introduction and background information
The bachelor BPW (Plant Sciences) lacks a coherent, incremental and activating learning path for scientific writing skills. Students identify deficits in their individual writing skill set too late (i.e., during writing of the BSc thesis or in their master phase). This is, among others, reflected in the consultation of the Wageningen Writing Lab (WWL) by BSc students. Of all consultations, 20% are requested by bachelor students. Of this group of BSc students, ~70% is working on his or her BSc thesis. To solve this problem, BSc students’ self-regulating capacity towards writing skills should be improved throughout their BSc programme. This requires an approach that allows students to clearly recognize the elements and strategies that they have mastered or still have to master (Self-Regulated Strategy Development, McArthur et al., 2016). Currently, scientific writing education in BPW is fragmented, and not designed and offered in a way that allows and stimulates students to monitor their development. Furthermore, incoherency in the approaches used in different courses obstructs teachers’ abilities to monitor the skill development of students. In addition, due to the strong growth in BPW students over the last years, there are and will be less opportunities for students to receive feedback on individual writing assignments across the curriculum.
With this project, we want to create a coherent learning path for scientific writing skills for the courses within BPW, based on well-connected, recognizable elements. Central focus in this learning path will be the writing process of students, supported by cooperative learning. The learning path will enable and encourage both students and teachers to gain more insight into individual writing levels. We will do this by providing teachers with insights in the learning process of students when developing academic writing skills and efficient (feedback) tools that challenge students to take an active role in their own skill development.
Project activities inlcude:
- Create inventory of needs among students regarding scientific writing in BPW
- Selection of core and application courses within BPW
- Design of a workshop focused on learning path design and (accompanying) skills development for lecturers (by ESA and WWL)
- Select and implement activating peer and self-review forms into the learning path
- Evaluation of the effectivity of the system.
Objective and expected outcomes
- To have BPW students have an improved capacity to give peer feedback, show awareness of their own challenges with regards to scientific writing and as a result, consult teachers in the core writing skills courses in early phases (i.e. 1st and 2nd year) of their bachelor programme with self-directed learning questions.
- To have teachers involved in the core courses of the learning line have the ability to identify students that require extra assistance (that cannot be offered within the course context) in early phases of the bachelor programme, so they can refer these students to the WWL with self-directed learning questions.
- To have students, teachers and BSc thesis supervisors see a clear improvement in the students’ writing skills and an overall increase in quality of (individual) writing assignments, including the BSc thesis report.
- To have teachers cooperate in their writing instruction approach and have more tools available to organize feedback even when facing increasing student numbers.
- Rich learning environment: The implementation of peer-review and self-review methods across the learning path will allow students to acquire new personal competences such as critical reviewing as well as giving and receiving feedback. Master students will, based on this increased focus on reviewing skills in the BSc, be able to provide more advanced (peer)feedback (e.g. in thesis rings).
- Flexible and personalised learning paths: By the implementation of a clear incremental framework for scientific writing skills in combination with more opportunities for feedback, it will become possible to identify individual challenges for students in earlier phases of their bachelor programme and to provide them with directed, individualized extra support from e.g. WWL or In’to languages. On an institute level, connecting adequately to different starting levels of students in the BSc (e.g. level of English and academic writing skills) will become even more important with the increase of International bachelor programmes and to enrol in the international master programmes MPS/MPB/MOA.
- Materials and training for lecturers can be used by other BSc programs: The training (including the supportive materials) designed by ESA and WWL can be used by other BSC programmes.
- Contribution to a stronger connection in the overall development of online and offline campus scientific writing education.
Results and learnings
This project started in 2018 and will be completed in 2020. The outcomes will be clear in 2020.