AUDIO: Why adding writing assignments to science classes needn’t be a headache

By the ScWRL team

There are a number of reasons to incorporate writing assignments into science classes, and these extend far beyond the discipline-specific learning goals you may have for your students. Just as science communication has taken off as a field in recent years, instructors and researchers are growing increasingly aware that teaching students how to write about science will provide them with important life skills.

By learning to write well, students will be able to compete for precious academic funding, communicate effectively in debates about scientific and governmental policy, and convincingly outline sound arguments that support a course of action.

Despite this growing desire to teach science students writing skills, some instructors are reined back from doing so by fears over a lack of expertise, and by concerns that they don’t have the necessary time to take on the challenge. But, taking the first steps in designing and integrating writing assignments needn’t be a headache…

Instructors can start by integrating small assignments that don’t weigh too heavily on the shoulders of their grading team. If feeling more adventurous, they can easily scaffold smaller assignments into one larger one, and in doing so, they can ask students to engage in peer review at each step. As well as helping to build a deeper understanding of the scientific publishing process — and it’s purposes — this addition means students will receive feedback and guidance at regular intervals, which should in turn cut down grading time when the final piece of writing is handed in.

In the below podcast, one of a number on the ScWRL site, the coordinator of the Writing Across the Curriculum program and the coordinator of the First-Year English program at UBC discuss the benefits of integrating writing assignments in science classes in much greater detail, as well as outlining some top tips for choosing which types of assignments work especially well.



If the discussion proves useful, perhaps you might consider subscribing to our Soundcloud channel, and/or checking out other podcasts in this series on the ScWRL site, which include expert advice relating to peer review, grading and providing feedback, and tutoring writing.

We have also created freely available resources to complement each podcast. For the one above, we have produced sample writing assignments that could be quickly and easily integrated into an upcoming science class.

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