A collaborative approach to integrating the teaching of writing into the sciences in a New Zealand tertiary context : this thesis presented for partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English at Massey University
The research question examined in this thesis is: "how can we effectively teach writing in the disciplines?" During the development of the research two subsidiary questions were included: "can writing in the disciplines be taught effectively through the combined expertise of writing specialists and subject specialists?" and "is action research an effective method of empowering academic staff as teachers of writing?" New Zealand universities, to date, have taken a very limited, generic approach to teaching or researching writing in the disciplines. This research makes a major innovation by bringing a writing teacher into collaboration with academic staff from the applied sciences to develop a programme whose objective was to teach the genres and styles of applied science writing to students in that discipline. The thesis focuses upon three writing projects. All three took place in the Faculty of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences at Massey University between 1993 and 1996 and took their inspiration from the writing across the curriculum movement. Project one involved the development of a Communication in Applied Science paper for first year students. Project two was a departmental writing across the curriculum programme aimed at integrating the teaching of writing into content courses. Project three involved integrating writing into the fundamental pedagogy of a single paper in horticulture. The project teams used action research as a method of developing and evaluating their programme. Action research was chosen as an appropriate methodology because it combines research with practical action, takes place in a real rather than an ideal context, provides a process to implement and monitor change, and allows for effective collaboration and ownership of the project. The projects have had the following key outcomes. Action research provides a successful methodology for integrating writing into the disciplines. Collaboration between academic staff and a writing consultant can offer a fully viable means of teaching writing in the disciplines. An institutional context of support and rewards for innovative teaching can enable staff to gain confidence as teachers of writing and understanding of writing in the disciplines. Student attitudes to writing and communication skills become more positive when the genres taught are professionally relevant, the importance of communication is modelled by credible sources, and writing support facilities are available. Finally, writing should be integrated into the pedagogical schema of a course at its inception, rather than being superimposed upon existing courses.