Writing and Learning in View of the Lab: Why "They" Might be Right


  • Catherine Prendergast University of Illinois




writing, learning, science, undergraduate education, laboratory research


To interrogate the field’s current understanding of writing as central to learning in the sciences, this study offers results from a qualitative, emic study of college students and their scientist mentors at work in an NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates. I observed that the work of this professional research laboratory mainly recruited and developed literacies, such as manual dexterity and visual acuity, other than language-based ones. Describing here the various laboratory activities that fostered higher-order thinking and knowledge transformation, I conclude that “writing to learn” research must consider how writing fits in with an ever-developing understanding of the complexity of learning.

Author Biography

Catherine Prendergast, University of Illinois

Catherine Prendergast is Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Her research and teaching are in the areas of literacy, disciplinary rhetorics, and disability studies. She is author of two monographs: Literacy and Racial Justice (2003) and Buying into English (2008), and blogs at about writing at www.firstyearcomp.com.



How to Cite

Prendergast, C. (2013). Writing and Learning in View of the Lab: Why "They" Might be Right. Literacy in Composition Studies, 1(2), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.21623/