Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Brian Hand


Some evidence of benefits from writing-to-learn techniques exists; however, more research is needed describing the instructional context used to support learning through writing and the quality of learning that results from particular tasks. This dissertation includes three papers, building on past research linking inquiry, social negotiation, and writing strategies to enhance scientific literacy skills of high school biology students. The interactive constructivist position informed the pedagogical approach for two empirical, classroom-based studies utilizing mixed methods to identify quantitative differences in learning outcomes and students' perceptions of writing tasks. The first paper reports students with planned writing activities communicated biotechnology content better in textbook explanations to a younger audience, but did not score better on tests than students who had delayed planning experiences. Students with two writing experiences as opposed to one, completing a newspaper article, scored better on conceptual questions both after writing and on a test 8 weeks later. The difference in treatments initially impacted males compared to females, but this effect disappeared with subsequent writing. The second paper reports two parallel studies of students completing two different writing types, laboratory and summary reports. Three comparison groups were used, Control students wrote in a traditional format, while SWH group students used the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) during guided inquiry laboratories. Control students wrote summary reports to the teacher, while SWH students wrote either to the teacher or to peers (Peer Review group). On conceptual questions, findings indicated that after laboratory writing SWH females performed better compared to SWH males and Control females; and as a group SWH students performed better than Control students on a test following summary reports (Study 1). These results were not replicated in Study 2. An open-ended survey revealed findings that persisted in both studies; compared to Control students, SWH students were more likely to describe learning as they were writing and to report distinct thinking was required in completing the two writing types. Students' comments across studies provide support for using non-traditional writing tasks as a means to assist learning. Various implications for writing to serve learning are reported, including identification of key support conditions.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Liesl Marie Hohenshell



Proquest ID


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File Size

297 pages