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Analyzing Student Writing in Physics. Lars Schweidenback With Scott Franklin of PAER*RIT and Lisa Hermsen of the Dept of Lang. and Lit. Rochester Institute of Technology. The Basis:. People write in class Notes, labs, work sheets, papers, etc.

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analyzing student writing in physics

Analyzing Student Writing in Physics

Lars Schweidenback

With Scott Franklin of PAER*RIT

and Lisa Hermsen of the Dept of Lang. and Lit.

Rochester Institute of Technology

the basis
The Basis:
  • People write in class
  • Notes, labs, work sheets, papers, etc.
  • Does that help people learn the information and how?
  • If so how can make it most successful
motivations
Motivations
  • “Writing Across the Curriculum”* claims that reflection of materials helps people learn
  • Do students reflect or report when writing in Physics?

* American Institute of Physics. Style Manual for Guidelines in the Preparation of Papers. 4th ed. New York: American Institute of Physics, 1990

previous research on topic
Previous Research on Topic
  • Scardamalia, Bereiter, and Steinbach, "Teachability of Reflective Processes in Written Composition". Cognitive Science B (1984)
    • looked at 6th grade science students and encouraged reflection by using key sentences ("I'm impressed by...", "To put it more simply...”)
  • Flower, "Writer-based prose: A cognitive basis for problems in writing college English” (1979).
    • Found that novice writers tend to present information in the order in which it is thought of.
  • Halliday: Writing Science: Literacy and Discursive Power. Pittsburgh Series In Composition, Literacy, and Culture (1993).
    • Defines lexical ambiguity and other common errors.
explorations in physics
Explorations in Physics
  • Activity-based course developed for non-science majors on mostly natural phenomena
  • Students spend three weeks on two different labs from the activity guide and three more on one project they pick themselves
  • Students wrote weekly journals
  • About 30 students
weekly student essays
Weekly Student Essays
  • Describe weekly activities and connect them with bigger picture
  • Revise previous entries and integrate revision with new entry into one coherent essay
  • Three revisions per topic
  • Do this three times in the quarter, once for each topic
procedure of investigating the writing
Procedure of Investigating the Writing
  • First study
    • Read all versions of all papers by three different students
  • Second Study
    • Read all intros of final versions of all papers by all students
  • Done by Professor Franklin, Professor Hermsen, and I
slide8

Change in Student’s Writing

Style from Paragraph to Paragraph

different meanings of float
Different Meanings of “float”

If the weight of the displaced water, which equals the buoyant force upward on the object, is greater than the pull of gravity downward, then the object will float.

A ball of clay dropped into water sinks, while the same clay when molded into a boat will float.

Here net force is upwards

Here the net force is zero

example of ambiguous usage of float
Example of Ambiguous Usage of Float

When the clay was molded to a different shape the gravitational force would not be bigger then the buoyancy force and the clay would float.

lexical ambiguity
Lexical Ambiguity
  • “Float” was used however most useful to writer at time in most papers.
  • Gets confusing which meaning is meant
  • Defined as “Lexical Ambiguity” by Halliday*
  • Interviews needed to find reasoning of it

* Writing Science: Literacy and Discursive Power. Pittsburgh Series In Composition, Literacy, and Culture (1993).

conclusions from the writings
Conclusions from the Writings
  • Students vary these styles to fit their knowledge
  • Seldom are key words well defined
  • Nothing can be found for certain without interviews
interviews
Interviews
  • Interviews are required to find any conclusion
  • Started interviews earlier this week on what think students the reasoning behind writing in physics is
  • Also asking students what they think they get out of experience of writing in physics
results from initial interviews
Results from Initial Interviews
  • So far we find that students do not reflect when writing in Physics
  • Students just write to show knowledge.
  • “I don’t think that I get much out of the lab reports. It is just basically putting big fancy words around a subject we all already learned”
  • Many more interviews to follow