Biblio >> Authorship, approaches to writing & learning strategies in first-year Nursing & Health Students

Authorship, approaches to writing & learning strategies in first-year Nursing & Health Students

TitleAuthorship, approaches to writing & learning strategies in first-year Nursing & Health Students
Publication TypeConference Paper
AuthorsMaguire M, Everitt-Reynolds A, Delahunt B
Conference NameWriting Research Across Borders III
Date Published02/2014

Authorial identity refers to ‘..the sense a writer has of themselves as an author..’ (Pittam, Elander, Lusher, Fox & Payne, 2009, p. 154) and it is increasingly recognised as an issue of concern in Higher Education, particularly as regards academic integrity and plagiarism. Yet surprisingly there is relatively little research that investigates students’ own perceptions of authorial identity, and the factors associated with this. In particular, it is crucial to explore beliefs about authorship in the first-year given the role of writing at this stage in the development of academic identities (Krause, 2001). In this paper we discuss the development of authorial identity in first year Nursing and Health students. We draw on relevant findings from a longitudinal survey of student beliefs about writing and authorship (n= 77) and in-depth interviews about students’ experiences and of writing academic assignments in the first-year (n=8). The survey comprised a number of measures including the Student Authorship Questionnaire (SAQ) (Pittam et al., 2009) and the Approaches to Learning Inventory (Peterson, 2010). It was completed at 3 points throughout the first year while the interviews were held towards the end of the academic year. The SAQ has 3 subscales that relate to authorial identity (confidence in writing, knowledge to avoid plagiarism and understanding authorship) and 3 that measure approaches to writing (topdown, bottom-up and pragmatic). The top-down approach to writing refers to starting with arguments and then looking for evidence, the bottom-up approach describes gathering material that can be put together to form an assignment while the pragmatic approach refers to focusing on secondary sources or material for strategic reasons. Clearly these have different implications for authorship and Pittam et al. (2009) suggest ‘intuitive parallels’ between approaches to writing and approaches to learning that are worthy of investigation. Findings indicated that on average our students had relatively strong authorial identities but that there was considerable variability in this and this was also reflected in the interviews. Mature students had stronger authorial identities than school-leavers and they also reported significantly higher levels of deep learning strategies. Overall bottom-up approaches to writing were reported more than top-down approaches, which in turn were reported more than pragmatic approaches. The interviews indicated excessive concern with unintentional plagiarism and reluctance to make a point not directly attributable to a source. This may account for the dominance of bottom-up approaches. However all 3 approaches showed significant inter-correlations and it was clear that almost all students were using all three approaches, to different degrees and the interviews suggest the importance of context. All three approaches to writing showed significant positive correlations with a deep approach to learning, however bottom-up and pragmatic approaches were also significantly associated with surface learning. There was no evidence of change in beliefs over the first year. The implications are discussed with reference to supporting the development of strong authorial identities and creating effective learning environments for the 21st Century.