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The Human Physiology Writing Centre: Task-based building of student capacity

S. Wiederman,1 J. Miller2 and C. Habel,2 1Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, and 2Centre for Learning & Professional Development, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

Students studying second year Human Physiology write a literature review in the first semester and a critical evaluation in the following semester. Generally, students are asked to complete such writing tasks, without any established teaching procedures. Therefore, these assessments can be difficult, particularly for ‘English as an Additional Language’ (EAL) students. As an aid, we provide a detailed assessment criteria sheet, however the interpretation of this information can in itself be a challenge. To remedy this situation, we established the Human Physiology Writing Centre, providing tutoring to the students for the specific writing task. The students were provided with two individual 30-minute sessions (one week apart) with a writing tutor (trained Psychology PhD students). The tutors provided guidance with the purpose of the task and an explanation of the assessment criteria. Working with the students and their drafts, they helped with logical flow and structure; as well as grammar and style. The tutors were not familiar with the underlying content (Physiology), which maintained a focus on writing. Qualitatively, the students have reported overwhelming support for this program (via student evaluations).

This ‘task-specific’ approach introduces the students to other ‘writing’ resources available within the University (the Writing Centre). This mentorship encourages student engagement with improving their writing via both intrinsic (context) and extrinsic (assessment) motivators. Importantly, we are providing the resources required to meet the student learning objectives of improved scientific writing.