Need: The ability of engineers and scientists to communicate effectively and persuasively is a critical competency that has been emphasized by the National Academies, yet remains challenging to develop. The long-term objective of this work is to improve the writing skills of undergraduate students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees in a lasting, cost-effective, and scalable way. Guiding Questions: The current focus of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of a novel program, Writing Across Engineering and Science, at i) improving STEM faculty awareness of best practices from writing studies and ii) encouraging their creative adaptation of those best practices. Writing Across Engineering and Science has been developed through a transdisciplinary action research approach and aims to empower STEM faculty to teach writing more effectively and in alignment with their disciplinary context. The program differs from traditional approaches in being grounded in transdisciplinary co-creation rather than transmission, in incorporating faculty learning communities, and in providing support during the development and implementation of pedagogical changes. Our on-going analysis of the program is based on faculty surveys, interviews, and analysis of course materials.Outcomes: We will present a description of the Writing Across Engineering and Science program, which includes a faculty learning community phase and a mentoring phase, both supported by transdisciplinary teams of facilitators/mentors, along with key lessons learned during four years of program development. We will also share preliminary results about the effectiveness of the program at building awareness of core concepts from writing studies and promoting pedagogical change that builds on those concepts. Broader impacts: The conceptual and pedagogical changes promoted by the Writing Across Engineering and Science program benefit participating STEM faculty, the graduate students they advise and supervise as teaching assistants, and the undergraduate they teach. STEM students with improved writing skills will have professional and societal benefits, including more effective information exchange in industry settings and better communication of STEM knowledge to the public. More broadly, this model for promoting pedagogical change could also inform institutional change in other important topic areas, such as student-centered learning, computational skills, and teamwork.
Rebecca Avgoustopoulos, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; Yvaine Neyhard, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; Megan Mericle, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; Ryan Ware, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; Mia Renna, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; Patrick Carzon, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; Paul Prior, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; John R. Gallagher, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; Celia Mathews Elliott, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; John S. Popovics, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; S. Lance Cooper, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; Julie L. Zilles, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign