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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

Refining scientific writing skills with feedback that works for students and instructors
Author(s): Leily S. Kiani; Carrie Menke

Paper Abstract

Evaluation of student learning through assessment of communication skills is a generally important component of undergraduate education and particularly so for promotion of interdisciplinary research conducted by future scientists. To better build these skills we aim to quantify the effectiveness of feedback on student writing of technical reports in an upper-division physics lab course. In one implementation, feedback utilization - in the form of observing commented technical reports, attending office hours or emailing rough drafts of their reports was monitored then correlated with improvement in student writing. The improvement in student writing is quantified as the single-student normalized gain. A slight positive relationship was found between the number of times a student utilized feedback and the improvement in student writing. A subsequent study involved correlation of two complimentary assessments of student work. In the first assessment students received consistent feedback throughout the semester on all sections of a technical report in the form of highlighted bullet points in a detailed rubric. In the second assessment method students received varying amounts of feedback for each section of the technical paper throughout the semester with a focus on one section each week and follow-up feedback on previously covered sections. This approach provides focused feedback that can be scalable to larger classes. The number of highlighted bullet points in the rubric clearly decreases as a function of the focused feedback implementation. From this we conclude that student writing improves with the focused feedback method.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 October 2015
PDF: 4 pages
Proc. SPIE 9793, Education and Training in Optics and Photonics: ETOP 2015, 97932N (8 October 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2223230
Show Author Affiliations
Leily S. Kiani, Univ. of California, Merced (United States)
Carrie Menke, Univ. of California, Merced (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9793:
Education and Training in Optics and Photonics: ETOP 2015

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