Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Kittelson, Pamela [1].

Write On! Reading and Writing Nonfiction Essays Enhance Undergraduate Botany Courses.

Lab reports and literature reviews can build undergraduate’s analytical and interpretive skills. While this type of writing is the primary mode of communication among scientists, it does not mirror what many graduates do professionally, nor does it necessarily build curiosity about botany. Writing skills, conceptual understanding and love of the plant sciences can be developed by reading and writing nonfiction science essays. Numerous academics and science writers contribute to this genre, also sparking the general public’s interest in botany. I designed and integrated a series of non-fiction reading and writing assignments into a Plant Physiology class and laboratory. Through this genre, students explored their interests in plant science, read and translated the scientific literature, and used data to support their arguments. I employed peer review and required reflection and revision cycles to improve writing skills, critical analysis and knowledge of botany. Students also wrote one lab report from a multi-week investigation. I evaluated the approach by comparing student pre- and post-self-assessments from two ‘non-fiction’ cohorts to two cohorts who wrote only lab reports and a literature review. I also evaluated students’ scores on exams. I found no difference in exam scores, ability to write the common lab report or understand the primary literature. However, the nonfiction cohort reported significantly more gains and confidence in writing as well as more enthusiasm for the writing process. These cohorts also were more likely to self-report that they understood physiological or botanical concepts better and were more apt to read about botany for pleasure. Finally, my own enjoyment in grading their written work increased. This poster will share resources and strategies that can enhance undergraduate communication and botanical skills.

1 - Gustavus Adolphus College, Department Of Biology, 800 W. College Ave., Saint Peter, MN, 56082, United States

Undergraduate teaching
Botany courses
Nonfiction essays
Science communication
Writing skills
Lab reports.

Presentation Type: Poster
Number: PEO004
Abstract ID:95
Candidate for Awards:None

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