Students’ approaches to scientific essay writing as an educational method in higher education : a mixed methods study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionSocial Sciences & Humanities Open. 2023, 7 (1), 1-6. 10.1016/j.ssaho.2022.100389
Purpose: To describe students' approaches to essay writing as part of their academic studies. As a theoretical framework Lavelle's five approaches was used. Methods: A descriptive study with a mixed methods design. Two questionnaires to the same student group, early (n = 39) and at the end (n = 37) of their studies, and three focus group interviews (n = 19) were conducted. The participants were nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and teachers who were part of a master's degree programme at an institute of health sciences at a university in Norway. Results: Mostly, the students took an impulsive and unplanned approach to essay writing. However, the students affirmed that essays were a method in which they could combine their theoretical knowledge and clinical experiences. When writing essays in groups, the students developed more reflective and critical thinking than when they wrote alone. The teacher's role was more of a supervisor than a traditional teacher. Four categories of Lavelle's writing approaches were found namely, spontaneous-impulsive, elaborative, reflective revisionist, and procedural, of which the spontaneous-impulsive and elaborative categories were most prominent. Conclusions: Approaches to essay writing can be developed in a more reflective and critical way among students in higher education and the teacher's role can be developed into more of a supervisor than a traditional teacher. Higher education is an arena for building a relationship between theory and practice and using academic essay writing as a method can promote this process.