Want to improve undergraduate thesis writing? Engage students and their faculty readers in scientific peer review.
One of the best opportunities that undergraduates have to learn to write like a scientist is to write a thesis after participating in faculty-mentored undergraduate research. But developing writing skills doesn't happen automatically, and there are significant challenges associated with offering writing courses and with individualized mentoring. We present a hybrid model in which students have the structural support of a course plus the personalized benefits of working one-on-one with faculty. To optimize these one-on-one interactions, the course uses BioTAP, the Biology Thesis Assessment Protocol, to structure engagement in scientific peer review. By assessing theses written by students who took this course and comparable students who did not, we found that our approach not only improved student writing but also helped faculty members across the department--not only those teaching the course--to work more effectively and efficiently with student writers. Students who enrolled in this course were more likely to earn highest honors than students who only worked one-on-one with faculty. Further, students in the course scored significantly better on all higher-order writing and critical-thinking skills assessed.
Reynolds, JA; Thompson, RJ
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