Contextualised writing programme for biological science students


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Slides from presentation "A contextualised writing programme for biological science students" given at the Writing Development in Higher Education conference at Sheffield in May 2004.

The talk describes evolution of a key skills module for Biological Scientists which continues to the present.

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Contextualised writing programme for biological science students

  1. 1. WDHE 2004 Dr Chris Willmott Dept of Biochemistry University of Leicester [email_address] A Contextualised Writing Programme For Biological Scientists
  2. 2. Context - Two Key Skills modules - First Year Medical Biochemistry and Medical Genetics students - 75-80 Participants - Running in current format since Jan 2000
  3. 3. Content of Key Skills programme - Writing skills activities - Oral presentation skills - Data-handling skills
  4. 4. Writing skills activities <ul><li>Characteristics, conventions and purpose(s) of scientific writing </li></ul><ul><li>Correcting ‘bad’ essay </li></ul><ul><li>Preparing a course essay, including referencing and plagiarism advice </li></ul><ul><li>Writing a scientific report </li></ul><ul><li>Writing an exam essay </li></ul>
  5. 5. ‘ Bad essay’ - objectives <ul><li>To identify common generic and subject-specific errors in writing </li></ul><ul><li>To offer students individual feedback on their written work </li></ul>
  6. 6. ‘ Bad essay’ - activities <ul><li>Students work individually, then in groups, to improve an error-rich essay provided by class tutor </li></ul><ul><li>Suggestions for improvement are pooled and discussed by class tutor </li></ul><ul><li>A second poor essay is e-mailed to students. They produce and submit (as paper copy) a better version, on which they receive 1-2-1 feedback from tutor </li></ul>
  7. 7. Plagiarism <ul><li>Recognising many students are “accidental” plagiarists </li></ul><ul><li>Not understanding the rules </li></ul><ul><li>Not enough time (poor time-keeping, overchoice) </li></ul><ul><li>Poor study skills </li></ul>See also Gill Chester (2001)
  8. 8. Plagiarism - objectives <ul><li>To distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate uses of source materials </li></ul><ul><li>To encourage good study skills, and referencing practice, as a safeguard against accidental plagiarism </li></ul>
  9. 9. Plagiarism - activity <ul><li>Students are presented with seven versions of an ‘essay’ extract as well as the original source material. </li></ul><ul><li>Asked individually, then in groups, to consider which are guilty of plagiarism. </li></ul><ul><li>Tutor-led discussion of appropriate and inappropriate use, leading into practical tips on avoidance of accidental plagiarism. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Exam essays - objectives <ul><li>Recognition of the key features of an effective exam essay </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity to practice the skills associated with, and receive advice on, writing an exam essay </li></ul>
  11. 11. Exam essays – activities (1) <ul><li>Students read a set of genuine, hand-written essay scripts and, in groups, rank the answers according to the formal criteria </li></ul><ul><li>Each group reports back on ranking, these are compared with ‘real’ order and tutor-led discussion on strengths and weaknesses </li></ul><ul><li>Other advice on exam technique </li></ul>
  12. 12. Exam essays – activities (2) <ul><li>Students plan essay on specified title and write under exam conditions </li></ul><ul><li>Peer evaluation of essays </li></ul><ul><li>Formally marked as part of summative assessment for module </li></ul><ul><li>Formative feedback also given regarding essay plan </li></ul>
  13. 13. Exam essays - practicalities <ul><li>Selection of essays (e.g. topic? marks?) </li></ul><ul><li>Obtaining permission from originators (data protection, intellectual property) </li></ul><ul><li>Number of essays in exercise = 6 (double sets if larger groups) </li></ul><ul><li>Photocopy once, remove markers comments and re-photocopy </li></ul><ul><li>Handwriting? </li></ul>
  14. 14. References Willmott CJR and Harrison TM (2003) An exercise to teach students about plagiarism Journal of Biological Education 37 :139-140 ( Willmott CJR, Clark RP and Harrison TM (2003) Introducing undergraduate students to scientific reports Bioscience Education E-journal 1 -10 (