Writing Instruction in Secondary Chemistry Classrooms



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Low ELA scores on state-mandated tests prompted efforts to incorporate writing into non-ELA classrooms through campus-wide writing initiatives. These efforts changed teachers’ daily praxes and necessitated research about how teachers collaborate to improve student writing. Three research questions were posed: 1) How do chemistry teachers offer instruction in writing? 2) How do chemistry teachers value writing as an instructional tool? And, 3) How do chemistry teachers assess writing via a rubric? The qualitative case study examined the behaviors and attitudes of three chemistry teachers as they enacted writing instruction for tenth grade chemistry students as part of a writing initiative at a high-needs high school. The researcher, an ELA teacher, collaborated with chemistry teachers for one year, collecting and analyzing data in the forms of meeting transcriptions, interviews, observations, a researcher journal, and artifacts such as writing prompts and drafts of an assessment rubric. The study revealed that chemistry teachers shared concern for students’ writing ability, but they rarely engaged in writing instruction. The collaborative development of writing prompts encouraged teachers to target chemistry learning objectives while the development of a rubric helped teachers to clarify their expectations for student writing and to identify opportunities for writing instruction. Chemistry teachers perceived that the type of writing mandated by campus administration was incompatible with their instructional goals and that more time was needed to incorporate writing into their curriculum, especially into non-advanced courses. The study contributed to a body of research regarding implementation of disciplinary writing strategies by offering an insider’s view of a collaborative writing intervention at a high-needs high school.



Secondary education, Writing instruction, Disciplinary literacy, Content area literacy, Writing in science, Writing pedagogy