Exploring and supporting metacognitive awareness and disciplinary literacy during laboratory work
Other conference contribution, 2021

The the objective of this research is: (i) to explore how physics students employ metacognition during lab note taking and (ii) to conduct a quasi-experiment testing the hypotheses that supporting students’ metacognitive awareness concerning disciplinary literacy will further their understanding of physics and writing knowledge.      
Context and justification
Undergraduate courses involving experimental work standardly require students to record their work using laboratory notes. Rarely, however, is lab note-taking recognized or used as a meaningful opportunity for developing students’ disciplinary literacy/learning. The course “Fysikingenjörens verktyg” (TIF275) is a case in point. Students are effectively told to “Keep a log”. Students receive no support or training regarding note taking (or how they might fruitfully recontextualize knowledge gained during the lab in the subsequent laboratory report), nor are they made aware of the disciplinary learning associated with the note writing process itself.
Objective and hypothesis
The objective of the proposed research is twofold. First, we explore how first-year physics students activate, reflect on and monitor their evolving physics knowledge and knowledge about writing during unaided lab note taking, and how they go about “transferring” that knowledge from the lab notes to the laboratory report. Second, we conduct a quasi-experiment testing the hypotheses that: Supporting students’ activation of and reflection on physics and writing knowledge during the lab (e.g. by highlighting strategies for writing lab notes that support physics learning), will (i) improve the quality of the writing and (ii) further students’ physics understanding.
Theoretical framework
This research relates both to disciplinary genre-oriented writing and disciplinary learning through writing; the theoretical framework underpinning it will thus scaffold both of these elements. The design, exploration, analysis, and intervention in this project will be informed by several reciprocal theoretical concepts, most notably disciplinary discourse and disciplinary literacy [1], genre awareness and recontextualization [2], metacognition and self-regulation [3].
The objective of this study will require several methodologies. A first, explorational, phase will rely on (i) genre-oriented content analysis of students’ lab logs and their lab reports [4], and (ii) semi-structured (stimulated-recall) interviews with students and lab assistants [5]. The second phase will adopt a quasi-experimental design [6]. Half of the student group will constitute the treatment group. These students will be invited to participate in a pedagogical intervention designed to support the writing of lab notes and to highlight similarities and differences between the lab log and the lab report, while maintaining a focus on key physical concepts. The second half of the student group (including students who do not wish to participate in the intervention) will make up the control group. Genre-oriented content analysis of the lab reports—supplemented by “regular” criteria-based assessment—will be used to determine any impact from the intervention. Interviews with students from the treatment group will provide further depth to the analysis. The quasi-experimental design does not allow a definitive confirmation or contradiction of the hypotheses; however, it will provide reasonable evidence for whether any observed changes in physics understanding/writing quality might be attributable to the intervention [7].  
The contribution of this research is the advancement of theory (primarily relating to disciplinary (physics) literacy, and metacognition and self-regulation) but also the furthering of physics pedagogy. If the hypotheses are correct, the intervention used in this course can easily be modified to fit other learning contexts, for the betterment of both disciplinary writing and disciplinary learning. As such, it will be of particular interest for teachers of courses involving laboratory work.
[1] J. Airey and C. Linder, “A disciplinary discourse perspective on university science learning: Achieving fluency in a critical constellation of modes,” Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(1), 27-49, 2009.  
[2] C. Tardy, B. Sommer-Farias, and J. Gevers, “Teaching and Researching Genre Knowledge: Toward an Enhanced Theoretical Framework,” Written Communication, 37(3), 287-321, 2020.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088320916554
[3] R. Negretti, “Metacognition in student academic writing: A longitudinal study of metacognitive awareness and its relation to task perception, self-regulation, and evaluation of performance,” Written Communication, 29(2), 142-179, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088312438529
[4] A.F. Selvi, Qualitative content analysis. The Routledge handbook of research methods in applied linguistics. New York: Routledge, 2020.
[5] S. Kvale, Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. London: Sage, 2004.
[6] J. Rogers, and A. Révész, Experimental and quasi-experimental designs. The Routledge handbook of research methods in applied linguistics. New York: Routledge, 2020.
[7] S. Graham & K.R. Harris, ”Conducting high quality writing intervention research: Twelve recommendations,” Journal of Writing Research, 6(2), 89-123, 2014. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.17239/jowr- 2014.06.02.1


disciplinary literacy, laboratory log(s)


report writing


Hans Malmström

Chalmers, Communication and Learning in Science, Language and Communication

Raffaella Negretti

Chalmers, Communication and Learning in Science, Language and Communication

Jonathan Weidow

Chalmers, Physics, Materials Physics

Göteborg, Sweden,

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