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    Philippa On The Ice Philippa Werry at an Antarctic research camp 2016

New Zealand Science Teacher


Infernal essays

Teacher REMCO BAARS shares a student essay, written as a task for NCEA biology standard B1.2: Biological Issues.

NZST has published a student's essay, An antibiotics uprising to accompany this article by teacher Remco Baars.

The idea of “infernal essays” is to allow students to target their research and avoid (or at least reduce) plagiarism.

This essay is one of the good essays handed in by our NCEA Level 1 Biology class this year. Using an approach developed by Nic Gibellini (Waimea College), our students use scrap books to collect information, paraphrase it, and then organise it into sections that answer the sub-questions developed from the refined question they need to answer for the B1.2 Biological Issues assessment.

The scrapbook is organised as follows:

Assignment instructions

Possible questions and refined question, with sub-questions to focus research

The sub-questions usually tended to be modifications of:

  • Why is this an issue?
  • What is the biology behind it?
  • What are the differing viewpoints and why are these held?
  • Possible ideas for dealing with this issue.

Two facing pages were used for each information source, with the source on the left, and relevant paraphrased comments on the right. Some of our students used different colours of highlighter – one colour for each of their sub-questions. This made organising ideas much easier, and we will encourage all students to do this next year. Each information source was numbered, and where paraphrased information was organised into sections to answer sub-questions, the resource number was recorded next to the information. This was carried through to essay planning and writing. Although in-text referencing is not required for this standard, many our students developed this skill to a high standard, which will help them with future essays.

The student feedback this year showed that although they found the paraphrasing into own words difficult, doing this before collating the information from various sources into sections meant there was much less ‘cut and paste’ directly from the sources they used. The other comment was that although the extra step of organising paraphrased words onto separate pages before planning their essay was more work, it did make the writing process easier, as they only needed to look at one page for relevant information.

Once the essay plan was developed, it was very easy to slot in the relevant information and acknowledge it. Since the students could easily trace the information they included in their final essay back to the source, evaluation of used sources for reliability, validity, and bias became much easier. However, this is an aspect we will need to develop further next year, as many of the evaluations tended to be rather superficial.

We are now looking at our junior science programmes to see how we can develop this capability as part of our junior science programme.

Remco Baars is HOD Science at Darfield High School.

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