Improving the quality of academic reflective writing in Nursing: a comparison of three different interventions
Students are rarely explicitly taught how to develop their writing within a subject discipline, as there is usually a focus on teaching content. However, academic writing, and in particular Academic Reflective Writing (ARW), is very challenging for most students. In this study, a series of three embedded writing development interventions were trailed with successive cohorts of postgraduate Nursing students writing a summative 4000 word piece of ARW. The interventions included the use of example texts to make task requirements more explicit, formative peer feedback on draft texts and facilitating increased dialogue between staff and students regarding expectations of this task. Overall the interventions represented a shift towards assessment for learning. Quantitative results showed a decrease in the number of students investigated for plagiarism, a rise in pass rates and mean grades, and an increased uptake of academic supervision over the three cohorts. In addition, complementary findings from a self-selected focus group interview indicated that respondents perceived the writing development activities to be very useful. In particular, the formative peer and tutor review of written drafts, was valued. However, a limitation of this pragmatic mixed method study was that the three cohorts were non-equivalent. Despite this, it is argued that, as ARW is so complex, disciplinary academics should embed explicit guidance and scaffolding in their teaching in order to enhance written reflection and learning. Failure to do so may lead ARW to become an exclusive educational practice leading to unintentional plagiarism and poor written reflection on practice.
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