Every day, I have to pick and choose which science blog posts I’m going to read. Titles scroll across my twitter feed, tempting me to push away my work and immerse myself in stories of tri-vaginated marsupials and XNA constructs. I’ve been following the opening of the NRC in Raleigh, NC, desperately wishing I could be there. Looking forlornly at images of Discovery, I’ve been saying farewell to the science giant that was the Space Program. The wealth of reading material in science blogs is staggering, and a lot of the writing is good.
I’ve been thinking a lot, since Science Online 2012 in January, about how students struggle to write effectively, and about how putting our work out there (like in this blog) can be so intimidating as to be paralyzing. In several different sessions at SciO12, I heard comments about the unpreparedness of college freshman to navigate science literature. Inability to distinguish between blog opinions and peer-reviewed papers is rather alarming, but it speaks to the experience of these students, not their intelligence. Understanding of resources begins with exposure. It develops when the interaction with those resources (articles, interviews, texts) is scaffolded in a meaningful way by teachers. It occurs to me that, although my students are prolific writers in English and History classes, they do virtually no science writing at all in their high school careers. I have a plan to change this, but, like any scientist, I need some preliminary data.
If you are a science instructor in higher education, an editor of a science publication or blog, or in any other field where you face the challenge of working with young science writers, I invite you to comment on the quality of science writing you see in undergraduate, graduate school, and beyond. Where do you see gaps in the science writing education of your students? What kinds of errors do you see, repeatedly, in your new hires that make you frustrated? When does the writing work?
If you’re challenged by science writing, what do you think your science education could have done to better prepare you?
Comment here to share your thoughts, or email me privately if you prefer.
(to reply privately, write me at lalsox(at)gmail(dot)com)
This is your chance to tell a high school science teacher writing work you wish she’d done with her students’ writing before they graduated.