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Caribbean Journal of Education

Student Perceptions and Outcomes of a WAC Intervention Exercise in an Introductory Biology Course

Publication Date: 
September 2008

The ability to write effectively in biology is a persistent concern in the Department of Life Sciences of the University of the West Indies. Although writing skills, such as spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure, are generally sufficient, content, structure, and coherency fall below an acceptable standard. In this study, we used quantitative methods to determine whether specific writing tasks would lead to a change in biology students' perception of writing in science and the perceived value of and/or willingness to use writing as a component in their science learning. During weekly tutorial sessions, the structure and content of specific essay questions were discussed with two groups of students. Only one group was then required to work in smaller groups to write and submit their essays for review. The findings suggest that students from both groups consider writing a valuable learning tool, and place similar importance on lecturer feedback. However, a higher percentage of those in the experimental group was willing to plan and revise the written assignments, and to do additional writing. On the other hand, a higher percentage of the control group assessed their writing skills more positively than those in the experimental group. Overall, the performance of students on the final examination was not significantly different (P = 0.212). Factors contributing to the outcome and strategies for improving students' perception of writing are discussed.

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