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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Animal Science Education

Designing Effective Writing Assignments for Students in the Animal Sciences


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 42 No. 1, p. 137-144
    Received: Sept 14, 2011
    Published: November 7, 2013

    * Corresponding author(s): michael.orth@ttu.edu
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  1. T. T. Barrya and
  2. M. W. Orth *b
  1. a Dep. of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Culture, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI 48824
    b formerly Dep. of Animal Science, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI 48824; currently Dep. of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech Univ., MS 2141, Lubbock, TX 79409


Employers of animal science students value good writing skills. However, trying to develop those skills in our academic programs is challenging, given the amount of material, skills, and opportunities we want students to explore during their undergraduate career. Furthermore, many of us do not feel qualified to teach our students how to write. This article provides ideas for how faculty in the animal sciences can incorporate writing in the classroom that improves students’ writing skills and their mastery of concepts. First, design assignments that meet course goals. Identify the most important concepts students need to learn and develop writing assignments in those areas. Provide targeted audiences to facilitate personal comprehension of the subject. Second, put the assignment in writing and discuss it in class. Clarifying the purpose and expectations can reduce anxiety and improve engagement. Third, provide opportunities for students to approach writing as a process. Opportunities for constructive feedback can promote learning important for thorough reflection on the topic. Writing assignments do not have to be long to achieve these goals. Anticipated outcomes include helping students better understand course material by putting ideas into their own words. Students also get a clearer understanding of scientific genres, leading to deeper development of critical thinking skills. If faculty devote time to teaching scientific writing, students will recognize the value of writing. Good writing takes practice. Increasing the number of courses in animal science that incorporate even one or two assignments that include feedback ultimately should improve their written expression.

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