"on course" for supporting expanded participation and improving scientific reasoning in undergraduate thesis writing

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© 2014 The American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc. The Department of Chemistry at Duke University has endeavored to expand participation in undergraduate honors thesis research while maintaining the quality of the learning experience. Accomplishing this goal has been constrained by limited departmental resources (including faculty time) and increased diversity in students' preparation to engage in the research and writing processes. Here we assessed the relationship between iterative changes in pedagogical and mentoring support of honors research that efficiently employed departmental resources (including the chemistry thesis assessment protocol, ChemTAP) and students' scientific reasoning and writing skills reflected in their undergraduate theses. We found that, although we cannot disentangle some gradual changes over time from specific interventions, students exhibited the strongest performance when they participated in a course with structured scaffolding and used assessment tools explicitly designed to enhance the scientific reasoning in writing. Furthermore, less prepared students exhibited more positive changes.





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Dowd, JE, CP Roy, RJ Thompson and JA Reynolds (2015). "on course" for supporting expanded participation and improving scientific reasoning in undergraduate thesis writing. Journal of Chemical Education, 92(1). pp. 39–45. 10.1021/ed500298r Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20434.

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Jason Dowd

Research Scientist

Christopher P. Roy

Associate Professor of the Practice of Chemistry

Robert J. Thompson

Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience

My research and teaching interests include how biological and psychosocial processes act together in human development and learning. One area of focus has been on the adaptation of children and their families to developmental problems and chronic illnesses, including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis. Another area of focus is enhancing undergraduate education through scholarship on teaching and learning and fostering the development of empathy and identity.


Julie Reynolds

Associate Professor of the Practice of the Department of Biology

Julie Reynolds has a Ph.D. in biology but, through a series of unexpected events, became an expert in writing pedagogies. She spent 5 years learning to teach writing as a postdoctoral fellow in Duke University’s first-year writing program before transitioning to the biology department where she has taught science writing and writing-intensive courses to thousands of undergraduates and graduate students. With over a decade of funding from the National Science Foundation, her disciplinary-based education research has focused on how writing assignments can promote deep, conceptual learning, especially in large science courses. Dr. Reynolds is also a writing coach and has helped hundreds of scientists across the country to increase their productivity while reducing stress associated with writing.

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