A scientist must be able to be understood in writing by many different groups of people. To be able to use the language and the conventions for writing adapted to the group in question, be it other scientists or the general public.
To write productivly is a sought after skill. Professional writing includes to rewrite a certain text several times. When a student writes a text they should first send in a first draft on which they get feedback on the content, structure, language and level of understanding. Thus students get help from fellow students and the teacher to identify which parts of a text that are well written and which parts that need to be rewritten. Then the text is revised and sends in a final version of the text.
The assignment in question can vary alot, e.g. articles, popular science, summaries, posters, web pages etc. Based on the feedback given the student then does a self evaluation.
Theory and practice
During the first year of bachelor studies the students get a short introduction to written presentations by teachers from the department of Nordic languages. The aim is to raise the theoretical awareness of the students and preparing them to giving feedback to each others texts. This is done in conjunction with an assignment in chemistry to make the writing closely connected to the theory. Even though the facts of a text is the important part to give the reader, if the reader doesn't understand or even read the text, facts are meaningless.
When giving feedback the subject of the text is in focus. This means that you do not have to be an expert in language to be able to give constructive feedback. You need a good grasp of the subject at hand to be able to both communicate and give feedback on said subject. The feedback is given by fellow students and the supervisor with the help of a form. Avoid making corrections directly in the text - a student owns their own text.
Giving feedback on a text
When working on an text assignment a fellow student and a supervisor reades the text and gives feedback via a form designed for written texts (can be found here). After receiving feedback the author revises the text before handing in a final version. This method trains the student and prepares hir for future professional texts that hir may need to write.
The aim of the feedback is to help a student improve hir writing and be able to write texts that are good even at a first draft (no one writes a perfect first draft though). The feedback highlights the good parts as well as those in need of development and gives suggestions on how to improve the text.
The form for text comments is designed to focus the attention on some of the more important aspects of a text that determine if it is well received or not. The aspects we choose to focus on are context, content, structure, disposition and language. When the students fill in their self evaluation they also reflect on the writing process as a whole.
Examples of written assignments
Written assignments can be altered in many ways, with regards to the sort of text to be written, the length, target group, language and more. By using different kinds of assignments throughout the programme we try to cover as many common situations as possible; PM:s, lab reports, in depth reports, life cycle analyses, posters, web pages as well as classic scientific articles.
As often as possible, these assignments should be individual assignments, and not only focus on gathering information but also to go one step further and analyse and explain. The motivation of the students increase if the assignment is integrated into the course curriculum and feels relevant for the examination. This can be accompliced for example by making the texts produced a part of the literature for the exam.
How to design an assignment for a course
0. Give the students clear instructions on the assignment and tell them what you expect from them in terms of facts and type of writing. If you expect the students to produce a project report targeting the next chain in command this must be made clear. It also creates more comfort for the students as they know how to do to deliver the demanded "product". Encourage the students to study their last performance via their digital portfolio (Diporta) and to use the developmental ladder during the whole writing process.
1. Set a deadline for handing in the first version of the text and make sure both supervisor and students assigned to give feedback are given the text. Usually it helps to set a very rigid form for the naming of the files.
This avoids a lot of misunderstandings and extra time to determine who is the writer.
Time for giving feedback: Students and supervisors alike give feedback (usually by using forms). No one should be giving feedback to the same person whom they have gotten feedback from. Both should have had an introduction on how to give feedback as well as on the writing process.
2. Deadline for handing in feedback
(1.5-2 days after step 1 is usually enough, depending on the amount of other work the students have)
Time for revision: Students, with the feedback given to them, revise their texts after which they fill in a self evaluation form. In the form they reflect on the feeback and their text, what they have learned and what they need to develop.
3. Deadline for final version and self evaluation
(1.5-2 days is usually enough depending on the amount of other work the students have)
The self evaluation form, together with the final version of the text are uploaded to the Diporta database. If possible, remember to schedule some time in the computer rooms for filling in the self evaluation form.