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Learning to write in science: A genre-based approach
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Abstract

Writing is not only an indispensable tool for doing science but also a powerful vehicle for learning science (Yore, 2004). It has been shown to enhance content understanding, promote conceptual change and inquiry, improve retention and learning, and cultivate scientific habits of mind. Despite the importance of writing to science learning and inquiry, most science classrooms offer limited opportunities for students to write and little support when students do write (Qi, 2015). As a result, many students face significant challenges in writing science, requiring support in developing language resources for making scientific meaning in genre-specific and register-appropriate ways. One way to provide such support is Sydney School Genre-Based Pedagogy (SGP; Rose & Martin, 2012). SGP offers explicit, systematic explanations of how language choices present information, embed perspective, and structure texts in ways that are specific to particular genres, disciplines, or contexts. It foregrounds the role of teachers as more knowledgeable others in providing support to students in ways that raise their awareness and understanding of how and why a text means what it means and why a text is more or less effective in achieving its purpose. This presentation describes how SGP was implemented in an inquiry-based sixth-grade science classroom, where the teacher engaged her students in learning to write biographies of famous scientists as part of a nine-week unit on scientists and their careers; the curricular module aimed at developing students’ understanding of science as a human enterprise interdependent with culture, society, and history. The paper presents detailed information about how the science teacher supported her students through the four phases of SGP (e.g., building knowledge and context, analyzing text, jointly constructing text with teacher, and independently constructing text), and in the process illustrates seven defining features of SGP—explicit, systematic, needs-based, supportive, empowering, critical, and consciousness-raising (Hyland, 2007).

Summary

Writing is central to both the conception of science and the social practices of scientists. This presentation describes how a Sydney School Genre-Based Pedagogy was recontextualized and enacted to support student writing in a middle school science unit aimed at developing students’ understanding of the nature of science.

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