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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Technical Writing: Sharing Resources at the 2011 NSTA Conference

Technical Writing: Sharing Resources at the 2011 NSTA Conference

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T. R. Girill Society for Technical Communication/Lawrence Livermore National Lab. trgirill@acm.org Technical Writing: Sharing Resources at the 2011 NSTA Conference The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) brought its huge annual National Conference on Science Education to San Francisco on March 10-13, 2011. I am pleased to report that the technical literacy project shared its resources with 70 conference attendees at one of this event's 2000 professional development sessions on Thursday, March 10. One unusual feature of our NSTA session (compared with others on science literacy) was that it shared techniques anchored in real-world technical-writing cases, rather than those focused only on just-for-school exercises. Here are the highlights: Presenters T. R. Girill, who manages the technical literacy project for the East Bay Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication and is an STC Fellow. Nadine R. Horner, external relations officer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), where in-service and pre-service teachers learn about this project's approach each summer and where high school students meet these writing techniques through the LLNL-sponsored regional science fair for which Horner is the director. NSTA Session Abstract Improving Technical Writing Skills In Science Class This presentation discusses ways in which science teachers can improve the basic technical writing skills that their students need to effectively "record, summarize, and communicate the results of inquiry to their class, school, or community" (National Science Education Standards, p. 214). Attendees will see how explicit guidelines for revising instructions and descriptions can externalize the often-hidden text-design techniques of those who communicate successfully about science. Scaffolded exercises that adapt real-world technical texts for high-school use enable students to iteratively improve the usability of draft explanations, including their own. This "cognitive apprenticeship" approach, which treats writing as text engineering, addresses the academic-English needs of ESL and underperforming science students as well as those in AP classes. Through student notebooks, risk assessments, and poster presentations it promotes practical science literacy during all stages of preparing typical science-fair projects. It also connects classroom practice directly to the on-the-job writing of research scientists, crime scene investigators, the technical trades, and health-care providers. The cases and materials shared here have been refined in California classrooms, have earned praise from science teachers pursuing professional development at the Edward Teller Education Center, and have received a Pacesetter Award from the Society for Technical Communication. Supporting Websites (listed on NSTA attendee handouts) Literacy development through science fair projects-- https://tvsef.llnl.gov/tvsef_itel_res.html#planning Comparative, explanatory overview of techniques and resources-- http://www.ebstc.org/TechLit/handbook/handbooktoc.html Writing instructions (checklists and annotated cases)-- http://www.ebstc.org/TechLit/trgintro2.html Writing descriptions (checklists and annotated cases)-- http://www.ebstc.org/TechLit/trgintro3.html

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