La Trobe University


La Trobe University


La Trobe University



Writing in Education

If you are studying in Education there are some different styles of writing you will need to know about. Of course you will have to write academic essays, so don’t forget to check the Writing at university module because writing essays at uni is different to writing essays at school. Other than essays, some common styles of writing used in Education studies are: Reflective essays, lesson plans, and case studies.

In Education you may have assessments that require you to analyse a particular case that is presented to you. These cases might be presented as passages of text; or they might be a video of a classroom, a student, and/or a teacher; or you might be asked to provide your own ‘case’ (this is often based on something you experienced or observed, usually on a practicum).

Case study assessments are interested in:

  • Your ability to identify significant factors in a case.
  • Your understanding of the relevant educational theories.
  • How you think these theories apply to ‘real’ situations (as presented in a ‘case’).

The case study would present/describe a scenario where some action occurs, while your assessment would expect you to analyse that scenario. In order to do this you must be familiar with various theories. You would then be expected to incorporate these theories into your analysis of the case.

An example of a case study:

David and Julie are Year 3 students who are working on a group project in Science. They are trying to decide on a format to present their work and have been discussing possibilities. At one point an argument occurs and Julie yells at David. The teacher hears this and intervenes, and punishes David for being aggressive.

Analyse this situation with particular focus on gender theories in Education. You may refer to other educational theories too.


In looking at the assessment example above, you are required to analyse what might be happening in this case, with a focus on gender issues.

Any points you choose to discuss must be supported by reference to the relevant theories. Be careful that you do not simply describe what happened.

For most students in Education, writing lesson plans is completely new. As pre-service teachers, this is a style of writing that you will be expected to use more and more as you progress through your course. Lesson plans are particularly important when you are on teaching practicums.

Some of your lecturers will provide you with templates they would like you to use when you are developing lesson plans, while other lecturers will expect you to develop or source your own. Don’t try and re-invent the wheel because there are many resources available to guide you when you are writing lesson plans.

Things to remember:

  • Lesson plans have their foundation in both pedagogical theory and curriculum requirements, so you may also need to include academic support for your lesson ideas. For example, why have you chosen to include a short test for students at the end of your lesson? You may need to examine the literature on assessment to support this.
  • Always check your assessment criteria to see whether you are expected to provide theoretical support within your lesson plans.
  • The topic of your lesson must always be guided by the curriculum requirements in your subject area and year level. You are not able to simply choose whatever you feel like teaching, it must align with the curriculum, and suit the level of your students. Every time you develop a lesson plan, check the AusVELS website and/or the VCAA website to ensure that your lesson is aligned with the requirements for your subject and the year level you are teaching.
  • The AusVELS and VCAA websites contain vital curriculum information as well as useful resources for teachers

At university not all disciplines use the same referencing system. As with all academic writing it is important to understand and use correct referencing. In Education the style of referencing used is APA 6.

If you are unsure how to reference the material you are using in your writing look at the Using Information module or the Academic Referencing module. These will introduce you to the principles and practice of proper academic referencing.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a common assessment task in both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.  It is an up-to-date synthesis of relevant literature about a topic or issue. A literature review provides the reader with a critical summary of what is currently known about an area of study. It is not just a description of various studies, one after the other, nor is it a set of summaries, one after the other. A literature review centres on a problem, issue or argument and is guided by this concept. It highlights the strengths and weakness, the similarities and differences, the contested areas, and the gaps in previous research to provide a clear and concise overall summary of the field.

Why write a literature review? If you are an undergraduate student, the literature review demonstrates that you are able to research and report on what is already known about a topic. In particular, you are providing evidence that you have read, evaluated, drawn links between the various studies and identified the central issues. If you are a postgraduate, the literature review will, in addition, indicate that you have identified the important unresolved critical issues and integrated previous research findings with your own research.

How to write a literature review: The production of an effective literature review involves a number of academic research activities:

  • searching and selecting the relevant sources from the literature in the field
  • reading and note taking (understand, summarise & evaluate) see Cornell note taking
  • grouping and categorising (identify themes in your topic eg. methods, theories, types of studies, issues, chronologies)
  • structuring and outlining (decide on the order of your themes)
  • synthesising (connect, compare/contrast, bring together)

How is a Literature Review different from an annotated bibliography?

  • An annotated bibliography is a list of sources, each one accompanied by a short paragraph saying what it deals with and how it contributes to your project.
  • The Literature Review is more than simply a list of short entries; it is written more like an essay, using paragraphs (and often subheadings as well – check with your assignment instructions for formatting). It provides a more detailed synthesised and contextual discussion of existing sources, with a more strongly developed sense of how the sources will not just contribute individually, but how they will also work together as you build your essay.
  • You start with a paragraph introducing your project and giving an overview of the literature you’ve found.
  • Then you go into detail, not source by source but theme by theme, looking at how various sources, or clusters of sources, deal with each theme (see the example excerpt below).

Example from a literature review

There are several critical elements for effective collaborative learning (CL); however Barkley, Cross, and Major (2014) note three distinctive characteristics. Firstly, CL requires intentional design, which means that learning activities should be planned and clearly explained (Barkley et al., 2014). According to Tran (2013) this is essential otherwise students are unsure of the actions to take and partake in off-task behaviour. CL also requires co-labouring (or positive interdependence) which refers to all participants working together to achieve the learning outcome; as the group’s success is dependent on all individuals succeeding (Herrmann, 2013). Kozar (2010) states that unless student contributions are equal, then CL is not occurring. The final characteristic, meaningful learning refers to purposeful collaboration (Barkley et al., 2014). Killen (2013) claims CL should only be implemented if student achievement with CL is greater than working independently. Gillies and Boyle (2010) add that social skills are necessary for students to effectively work together to achieve the learning goals. According to Killen (2013) when students do not possess these skills, CL is unsuccessful.

(from a literature review on Collaborative Learning in Education)

For an extract from another literature review, click here.