The SWH approach was collaboratively developed in 1998. It has been used in over 700 classrooms across Iowa, in Washington, and across the globe in Korea, Turkey, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Australia, benefitting more than 20,000 students since 2004.

The SWH approach is about transforming students’ thinking by transforming the science classroom. With the SWH approach, teachers move away from verification labs and memorization to the kinds of activities, conversations, and writing that real scientists do. Students learn to negotiate meaning both publicly and privately from the results of their work and to argue for their ideas by posing questions, gathering data, and generating claims based on evidence. Critical to this approach is the emphasis on language, both written and oral, through all the negotiation opportunities that are created. This approach creates classroom environments where ideas are debated and everybody has a chance for success – the emphasis is on understanding and practicing science not memorizing scientific facts.

Most of the students in our past research efforts have been 3rd through 5th graders. The gains in the critical thinking skills of those students are significant. In all age groups (elementary, middle school, secondary, and college level) that we've use the SWH approach with, we've closed achievement gaps with respect to gender, socio-economic status, and ethnicity. In addition to impressive critical thinking skills growth, kids in SWH classrooms tend to do better on the Science, Math, and Reading sections of the Iowa Assessments.

The Science Writing Heuristic Approach:

  • is successful in improving scores in math and reading.
  • Closes achievement gaps across widely diverse groups.
  • Significantly impacts critical thinking growth rates.
  • Has a lasting carry-over effect in later grades, even when they are not using the approach.
  • Years of exposure are important – more the better.

We know this approach helps kids learn. We need your support to continue that effort and to get the SWH approach into more classrooms.

Brian Hand, SWH approach co-developer
Professor, Science Education, Department of Teaching & Learning

Please Support SWH Outreach

You can make a gift to Science Writing Heuristic research and outreach online through the University of Iowa Foundation. Select the College of Education Advancement Fund and write Science Writing Heuristic in the comments section during check out. Thank you.