Science Process and Science Writing

Modern education pedagogy strongly suggest that introductory science courses should include a greater emphasis on inquiry and science process and less emphasis on the memorization of facts (American Geophysical Union, 1997; Nat. Res. Council, 1996). Writing science papers using real earth data is one of the most effective ways to implement these recommendations. The strategy is to model course activities after those of practicing scientists. These include the selection and display of earth data, use of data to support a theory, making scientific arguments in oral and written form, and reviewing peers' work. In a general education course, this requires smoothly functioning software that insulates the learner from the details of data formats, complicated plotting programs, etc. and provides point and click access to a rich variety of earth data.

Navigation note: notice the links in the left column. These take you to details, handouts, and activities for science writing.

Practical Experience:

Writing assignments implemented for UCSB's "Introduction to Oceanography" class, by W. Prothero: Writing assignments in this class were initially given in the traditional way, where a student writes a paper, hands it in, the teacher (mostly teaching assistants) grades it and comments on it, and returns it. A research program, funded by the National Science Foundation, was initiated to study the challenges that students faced and to improve the way students were prepared for the assignments and the supporting technology (see the references below). Ultimately we arrived at using a somewhat modified version of the  "Calibrated Peer Review" (CPR) format developed at UCLA .The CPR pedagogy includes the student in the review process and requires him/her to critically evaluate several papers written by the instructor, 3 peer papers, and her/his own paper. This method is also supported by EarthEd Online. The EarthEdOnline software is not currently being distributed, but the same functionality can be achieved using the "Learning With Data" CDROM and the UCLA CPR software. For more details about the writing assignments, click on the featured reference below. Links on the left of this page access teacher and student resources developed for UCSB oceanography. The use of the CPR method improved student learning significantly and reduced grading effort by about 80%. This makes it a practical and desirable method for improving learning in a large science class.

References (click on a link to read a reference):


Featured: Prothero, W.A. and Kelly, G.J. (2008). Earth Data, Science Writing, and Peer Review In a Large General Education Oceanography Class. Journal of Geoscience Education, January, V56, No. 1.


American Geophysical Union, 1997.“Shaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth and Planetary Sciences Education: Innovation and Change Using an Earth System Approach”.

 Kelly, G. J., Chen, C., & Prothero, W. (2000). The epistemological framing of a discipline: Writing science in university oceanography. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 691-718.

Kelly, G. J., Bazerman, C., Skukauskaite, A., & Prothero, W. (2002). Rhetorical features of student science writing in introductory university oceanography. Proceedings of the Ontological, Epistemological, Linguistic and Pedagogical Considerations of Language and Science Literacy: Empowering Research and Informing Instruction conference, Dunsmuir Lodge, University of Victoria, September 12-15, 2002.

 Kelly, G. J., & Takao, A. (2002). Epistemic levels in argument: An analysis of university oceanography students' use of evidence in writing. Science Education, 86, 314-342.

Takao, A. Y., Prothero, W., & Kelly, G. J. (2002). Applying argumentation analysis to assess the quality of university oceanography students' scientific writing. Journal of Geoscience Education, 50(1), 40-48.

Takao, A. Y., & Kelly, G. J. (2003). Assessment of evidence in university students' scientific writing. Science & Education. 12, 341-363.

 Kelly, G. J., & Bazerman, C. (2003). How students argue scientific claims: A rhetorical-semantic analysis. Applied Linguistics, 24(1), 28-55.

Learning Resources: