Science Lab Report Writing in Postsecondary Education: Mediating Teaching and Learning Strategies between Students and Instructors




Kalaskas, Anthony Bacaoat

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The lab report is a genre commonly assigned by lab instructors and written by science majors in undergraduate science programs. The teaching and learning of the lab report, however, is a complicated and complex process that both instructors and students regularly contend with. This thesis is a qualitative study that aims to mediate the mismatch between students and instructors by ascertaining their attitudes, beliefs, and values regarding lab report writing. In this way, this thesis may suggest changes to teaching and learning strategies that lead to an improvement of lab report writing done by students. Given that little research has been conducted in this area thus far, this thesis also serves as a pilot study. A literature review is first conducted on the history of the lab report to delineate its development since its inception into American postsecondary education in the late 19th century. Genre theory and Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) serve as the theoretical lenses for this thesis. Surveys and interviews are conducted with biology majors and instructors in the Department of Biology at George Mason University. Univariate analysis and coding are applied to elucidate responses from participants. The findings suggest that students may lack the epistemological background to understand lab reports as a process of doing science. This thesis also finds that both instructors and students consider the lab report primarily as a pedagogical genre as opposed to an apprenticeship genre. Additionally, although instructors were found to have utilized an effective piecemeal teaching strategy, there remains a lack of empathy among instructors for students. Collectively, these findings suggest that instructors should modify teaching strategies to determine and address student weaknesses more directly. Keywords: pilot study, qualitative study, science lab report, postsecondary education



Science lab report, Postsecondary education, Genre analysis, Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)