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SLO Proposal 1

Running Head: SLO PROPOSAL

SLO Proposal: Developing a Thesis Driven Research Paper

Tajma Cameron

University of Maryland University College

EDTP 650- Professional Internship and Seminar

Dr. Warna Gillies

February 11, 2018

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Academic writing plays a significant and essential role in the understanding,

interpretation, and analyzing of information. Academic writing is especially important in the

field of science where you must effectively communicate the results of your research. A key

component of the scientific process involves communicating findings. When teaching students

the scientific approach to academic writing we are educating students on the necessary skills to

define a problem, analyze and interpret data while drawing critical connections (Hesselbach et

al., 2012). Creating a research thesis is an essential element in academic writing regardless of the

academic discipline. Effective academic writing will demonstrate students’ ability to present a

clear and defined approach to reporting research findings and specifically the ability to develop a

focused thesis statement. The thesis statement is one of the most important elements of a

research paper. The crucial nature of effective academic writing in science is highlighted in the

Maryland State Common Core Standards for English Language Arts in Science and Technical

Subjects. These standards stress the importance of citing specific textual evidence in order to

support analyses of science and technical texts while attending to the precise details of

explanation or descriptions (MSDE, 2017).

The approach by many school systems to focus more on creative writing has affected

many students’ abilities to effectively write high quality research papers. In the two Honors

Biology courses participating in the SLO students have never constructed a thesis statement.

These students have written reports in the past but due to their general nature they have yet to

experience creating a research thesis. In the school in which the SLO project will take place,

teachers are not required to assign research papers. However, the Department Chair of Science
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has made this a requirement in all of his Honors level Biology courses. The teacher has created

SLOs that will be in alignment with Common Core Standards and are as follows:

 Students will develop a thesis statement that is focused, a scholarly proposal, and


 Students will develop a research question that is well-focused and limited, raises an issue,

and/or invites research.

 Students will effectively use the Council of Science Editors (CSE) to cite from peer

reviewed scientific journals, .gov or United States military databases, and scientific

books, and journals found on the Proquest database

 Students will effectively be able to identify reliable, credible, and relevant information


When deciding on SLO goals for the Honors Biology courses the Department Chair decided

to focus mostly on the development of thesis statements and designing research questions. He

believes that thesis statements are the most critical component of a research paper because it

controls the subject matter and provides a defense of your argument.

My SLO group will consist of two Honors Biology courses. These two classes are comprised

of African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian students. The total number of students

participating in the SLO is 42. The pre-assessment that will be used to gather the baseline data is

two worksheets that ask students to judge a series of statements to determine their suitability as

thesis statements. If deemed “poor”, students must rewrite the thesis statements to make them

acceptable. The second pre-assessment tool is a worksheet on using research questions. Students

will have to determine if the research questions provided are well-focused and limited, raise an
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issue, and/or invites research. There are a total of nine thesis statement questions and ten writing

research questions. The goals will be measured by scoring a series of thesis statement and

research question worksheets with a range of 0-19. The project will take place over the course of

eight weeks, from January 15th to March 16th, 2018. Students will be assessed based on the

following rubric: 0-4 No Proficiency, 5-9 Low Proficiency, 10-14 Proficient, and 15-19 Highly

Proficient. The project will take place over the course of eight weeks, from January 15 to March

16 , 2018.

The two growth targets for this SLO project are as follows:

 75% of the students in both Honors Biology courses will be able to demonstrate at least

70% proficiency in achieving the standards

 Students scoring a 5-9 on the pre-assessment will improve their final score by at least 2


Literature Review
As Elton (2010) stated,
“Student writing in an academic discipline is, if taught at all, taught either in an academic

writing unit, which rarely if ever can go beyond the generic, or within a disciplinary

department, where there is rarely the appropriate expertise in academic writing” (p. 151).

In order to be successful in academic writing students must possess the skills that will

allow them to effectively communicate in a written format (Elton, 2010). DeFazio, Hook, Jones,

and Tennant (2010) stated, "Effective writing is a skill in which its foundation is rooted in the

cognitive domain". This involves not only learning but comprehension, application, and

synthesis of new information and knowledge (Defazio, Hook, Jones & Tennant, 2010). The

importance of effective student academic writing goes beyond secondary education. As Coffin et
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al (2003) stated, “Student academic writing is at the heart of teaching and learning in higher

education” (p. 1). Therefore, it is imperative that teachers develop an effective approach to teach

students the critical skills needed to create high quality academic writing.

A research thesis differs from a non-research report in that you must gather information

and evidence from credible and valid sources to support your argument. With a research thesis,

students will form their own ideas about a specific topic. The thesis acts as the focus for the

information gathered for your research paper. Essentially, a research thesis will offer the reader

your proposed answer to your research question. A good working thesis should limit the subject

to a narrow focus with one issue and express your position in full. A good research question is

researchable, well-focused and limited, and raises an issue that is worthy of further examination.

This is why understanding how to create a clear and concise thesis with strong supporting

elements to bolster the claim makes it easier to identify. Mauch and Park (2003) states that the

thesis and research question serve as the action plan for carrying out the research. The plan for

observation in conjunction with supporting arguments is the basis on which a thesis is created

(Mauch & Park, 2003). The thesis statement must clearly advance an argument. Evans, Gruba,

and Zobel (2011) states that the role of the thesis statement in a research paper is to point the

reader forward to a conclusion through evidence and arguments. Castelló and Donahue (2012)

believe that academic research paper writing is a two part complex process. Firstly, students

must be equipped with the critical thinking skills that will allow them to act as a researcher when

developing their research study (Castelló & Donahue, 2012). Secondly, students must be able to

effectively communicate their findings.

Coffin et al (2003) believe that when teaching students academic writing, educators

should consider using a range of diverse teaching strategies. The strategies should include
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practical activities that will help students to develop their writing abilities (Coffin et al., 2003).

One activity includes the use of scaffolding. Coffin et al (2003) states that a key aspect of the

scaffolding activity used in teaching students’ academic writing involves raising the students’

awareness of the conventions within which they are expected to write (p. 12). Students should

then be assisted with adding to these conventions to their “linguistic and rhetorical repertoires”

(p. 12). Andon, Cogo, and Wingate (2011) states that the teaching of writing must be embedded

into the curriculum. This can be achieved through the use of modeling and guided practice.

Coffin et al (2003) states that modeling and providing guided practice in teaching academic

writing will assist students in writing about challenging texts. The guided practice will allow

students to internalize the strategies and then have the ability to perform the task independently.

Block and Pressley (2002) are in agreement with scholars that states when teaching

students academic writing educators must teach cognitive and meta-cognitive processes

regardless of the discipline. These processes include modeling, scaffolding, guided practice, and

independent practice. An important aspect that all teachers must keep in mind with respect to

teaching academic writing is using an approach that will address the needs of diverse learners.

This includes students with a limited amount of experience in academic writing as well as

students whose primary language is not English (Coffin et al., 2003). Regardless of the academic

discipline the tools used to teach academic writing must cross cultural and learning boundaries.

The SLO will consist of various instructional strategies for two of my Honors biology

classes over the course of eight weeks. The 42 students in both classes will take a pre-assessment

on the first week of the SLO which consist of two worksheets which included creating effective

thesis statements and research questions. All students have a Writing Research Paper text that
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was purchased at the beginning of the spring 2018 semester. This book offers a guide to the

thesis writing and creation of research question process as well as the CSE citations. Students

were also provided with examples of poorly written and strong thesis and research statements.

They were then asked to evaluate the thesis statement and research question worksheets based on

the criteria provided from their books and the sample worksheet. For the thesis statement

worksheet, students were also asked to write examples of hypotheses to compare to thesis

statements. Students were engaged in the process through weekly activities and a participatory

approach where students had to verbalize their answers for the teachers and peers. After the pre-

assessments are scored, the 42 students will be placed into four groups:

 No Proficiency: 0-4

 Low Proficiency: 5-9

 Proficient: 10-14

 Highly Proficient: 15-19

The instructional strategies used for the completion of the SLO are designed in a way that

will maximize the learning objectives. Since students are tasked with creating a comprehensive

research paper that is thesis-driven and representative of scholarly academic writing, the

assignment is sequenced over the course of eight weeks.

Process scaffolding of writing thesis statements and research questions (First Week of SLO)

 As this is a complex assignment, it will be broken down into smaller components to help

students master each step. The two worksheets consist of writing thesis statements and

research questions. After providing students with multiple examples of the correct way to

create thesis statements and research questions they are provided with forms to practice
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their writing. Students will submit their sample thesis and research questions for

assessment with feedback. The students will use the feedback to revise their writings and

then rewrite them before their final submission. Students have until February 2nd, 2018 to

give in as many submissions of their work with feedback.

Guided Practice of identifying scholarly thesis statements and research questions (Third Week of


 Teacher and students will read scholarly thesis statements and research questions

together. The teacher will then model how to identify if the thesis statements are focused,

a scholarly proposal, and researchable and if research questions are well-focused and

limited, raise an issue, and/or invites research.

Independent Practice of identifying scholarly thesis statements and research questions (Fourth

Week of SLO)

 Students will read sample paragraphs and identify the thesis statements and research

questions. This will be done on a worksheet and collected for homework. The answers

will be discussed in class and returned to students.

For scaffolding, the thesis statement and research question worksheets use questions from

different disciplines. This will give students a realistic representation of thesis statements and

research questions from different academic disciplines. It also shows students the proper criteria

for thesis statements and research questions. For the guided practice activity, sample thesis

statements and research questions will come from the mandatory required Writing Research

Papers book. Students must bring this book with them to each class until it is no longer

necessary. Students must also take notes in their notebooks. After this instructional strategy
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students will write their first draft of a thesis statement and research question. After reading their

first drafts the papers will be returned with feedback. Finally, after the independent practice

students will revise and rewrite their works. The summative assessment will then be compared to

the pre-assessment worksheet to identify if any progress has been made since the beginning of

the SLO.
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Andon, N., & Cogo, A., & Wingate, U.(2011). Embedding academic writing instruction into

subject teaching: A case study. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(1), 69-81.

Block, C. C., & Pressley, M. (2002). Comprehension instruction: Research-based instruction.

New York: Guilford.

Castelló, M., & Donahue, C. (Eds.). (2012). University writing: Selves and texts in academic

societies. BRILL.

Coffin, C., Curry, M. J., Goodman, S., Hewings, A., Lillis, T., & Swann, J. (2005). Teaching

academic writing: A toolkit for higher education. Routledge.

Defazio, J., Hook, S. A., Jones, J., & Tennant, F. (2010). Academic Literacy: The Importance

and Impact of Writing across the Curriculum--A Case Study. Journal of the Scholarship

of Teaching and Learning, 10(2), 34-47.

Elton, L. (2010). Academic writing and tacit knowledge. Teaching in Higher Education, 15(2),


Evans, D., Gruba, P., & Zobel, J. (2011). How to write a better thesis. Melbourne Univ.


Hesselbach et al. (2012). A guide to writing a scientific paper: A focus on high school through

graduate level student research. Zebrafish, 9(4), 246-249.

Hillocks, G. (2010). " EJ" in focus: Teaching argument for critical thinking and writing: An

introduction. The English Journal, 99(6), 24-32.

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Hyland, K. (2004). Disciplinary discourses, Michigan classics ed.: Social interactions in

academic writing. University of Michigan Press.

Mauch, J., & Park, N. (2003). Guide to the successful thesis and dissertation: A handbook for

students and faculty (Vol. 62). CRC Press.