Science writing heurisitc: A writing-to-learn strategy and its effect on student's science achievement, science self-efficacy, and scientific epistemological view

Nancy S Caukin, Tennessee State University


The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to determine if employing the writing-to-learn strategy known as a “Science Writing Heuristic” would positively effect students’ science achievement, science self-efficacy, and scientific epistemological view. The publications Science for All American, Blueprints for Reform: Project 2061 (AAAS, 1990; 1998) and National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) strongly encourage science education that is student-centered, inquiry-based, active rather than passive, increases students’ science literacy, and moves students towards a constructivist view of science. The capacity to learn, reason, problem solve, think critically and construct new knowledge can potentially be experienced through writing (Irmscher, 1979; Klein, 1999; Applebee, 1984). Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) is a tool for designing science experiences that move away from “cookbook” experiences and allows students to design experiences based on their own ideas and questions. This non-traditional classroom strategy focuses on claims that students make based on evidence, compares those claims with their peers and compares those claims with the established science community. Students engage in reflection, meaning making based on their experiences, and demonstrate those understandings in multiple ways (Hand, 2004; Keys et al, 1999, Poock, nd.). ^ This study involved secondary honors chemistry students in a rural prek-12 school in Middle Tennessee. There were n = 23 students in the group and n = 8 in the control group. Both groups participated in a five-week study of gases. The treatment group received the instructional strategy known as Science Writing Heuristic and the control group received traditional teacher-centered science instruction. The quantitative results showed that females in the treatment group outscored their male counterparts by 11% on the science achievement portion of the study and the males in the control group had a more constructivist scientific epistemological view after the study than the males in the treatment group. Two representative students, one male and one female, were chosen to participate in a case study for the qualitative portion of the study. Results of the case study showed that these students constructed meaning and enhanced their understanding of how gases behave, had a neutral (male) or positive (female) perception of how employing Science Writing Heuristic helped them to learn, had a favorable experience that positively influenced their self-confidence in science, and increased their scientific literacy as they engaged in science as scientist do.^

Subject Area

Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Nancy S Caukin, "Science writing heurisitc: A writing-to-learn strategy and its effect on student's science achievement, science self-efficacy, and scientific epistemological view" (2010). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3439048.