Reviewing-Kompetenz erfassen und fördern : Entwicklung und Evaluation eines Projektes zum wissenschaftlichen Schreiben im Physikpraktikum

Wolff, Ines; Heinke, Heidrun (Thesis advisor); Riese, Josef (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2017, 2018)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, RWTH Aachen University, 2017


A key element of professional and academic success in science is being able to write about experimental data. One aim of this work was to support the development of such writing skills by developing a scientific writing course for a practical physics laboratory at the RWTH Aachen University. Key element of the writing project is the writing of short research articles and giving as well as receiving feedback on these articles. To generate an authentic and motivating learning environment, students can work and write cooperatively. They also participate in peer feedback processes. A central concept of this work is reviewing. Reviewing is an important part of scientific writing and it can be understood as a basis for phrasing feedback regarding texts other people have written. In this work we assume that being able to write scientific texts is strongly related to critical reading of texts that were written by others and diagnosing problems in these texts. The thesis answers the research question whether reviewing competence can be improved through participation in the writing project. So called test-texts were developed in an iterative approach to form the core of a three-part test instrument that aims at assessing students’ reviewing competence. The test-texts are two equivalent scientific texts based on the same physical topic of the free fall of a body. Both texts are written for students with basic prior knowledge in physics. The latter should apply to all bachelor students of scientific study courses. 30 mistakes of different type and complexity were included deliberately in each test-text. The task of the test persons is to identify these mistakes and comment on them. Detailed assessment criteria are used to determine whether a mistake was identified correctly. Because reading competence is one important element of reviewing ability the second component of the test instrument is a C-test that is used as a reading comprehension test. The third element is a self-assessment questionnaire that is used to assess the development of students’ self-perception in five different fields. The results of the main study (N = 89) and of the repetition study (N = 87) that was conducted the following year, show favorable results regarding the development of the students’ reviewing competence. In both studies the test results of students participating in the writing project improved to a greater extend compared to those of participants in control groups. The difference was statistically significant in both studies. It seems that the improvement is not moderated by the fact whether the students in the writing project received feedback from the tutor or feedback from peers. Results of a follow-up-test and of some of the items on the questionnaire however indicate that peer feedback might be the more effective feedback form. To be sure, more studies must be conducted. A pre-post-comparison of the self-assessment data shows that the self-assessment of students in the control condition improved just as much as that of the students participating in the experimental condition regarding the writing of scientific texts and knowledge about scientific texts. In all cases the pre-post differences are statistically significant. Thus, the detected change is probably not caused by the intervention. One objective of this work was to generate an authentic and motivating learning environment for students participating in the writing project. The positive responses from the students implicate that this was achieved. It had to be noticed though, that the successful implementation of such a writing project can be compromised if students encounter (written) language deficits. Summing up, the implementation of writing projects in university courses can contribute to the positive development of scientific writing skills although such projects cannot be standalone items. Instead, they must be understood as part of a systematic training in scientific writing since such complex skills cannot be achieved in one single course.