Writing Science Through Critical Thinking

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The expectations of writing at the University level are very different from High School and having someone experienced in academic writing give you feedback can be very helpful.

The Writing Centre is available to work with students from all disciplines and at any phase in the writing process.

For their 2009 book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipsa Rocksa followed a little over 2,300 college students through their first two years of school.

They found “a barely noticeable impact on students’ skills in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing” and “no statistically significant gains [in these skills] for at least 45 percent of the students.”These students may be learning things, but they’re not becoming better thinkers or writers.

Each of these types of writing follows specific conventions and demands a range of writing skills.

I got good grades in high school and I think I am a pretty good writer. Although this may be true to some extent, all writers benefit from reviewing their work with a writing tutor.In an introductory Earth science course, my first job is to teach my students about plate tectonics, soil formation, oceanic and atmospheric processes, the climate system—all the things that comprise a firm foundation to build on in further classes.But the vast majority of my students will never take another Earth science course, and while this information is still useful in their lives (a point on which they may not particularly agree in the moment), there are more important things to be teaching them.There are many great reasons for students to experience various fields of science, but why not address critical thinking directly, as well?This is hardly a radical thought, and I’m far from the first to think it.Scientific literacy and critical thinking skills are seen as natural side-effects of studying a science. I don’t think it reliably works that way, especially for students who expect to struggle with and be bored by science classes from the outset.It’s easy to sit through a class, memorizing some facts and working through assignments with minimal effort, without ever actually engaging with the scientific process that created this knowledge.As a university student, you are required to write in many different forms for a variety of audiences.The most common types of writing are academic assignments, such as essays, research papers, and business or lab reports.That’s a remarkable failure to realize the promise of a college education—and that disappointing reality actually appears to have gotten considerably worse over the last few decades.It’s irrelevant how much blame should be placed on the school and how much on the students. As an educator, I’ve constantly struggled with how to stimulate growth in these skills.


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