Writing as a Teaching and Learning Tool in SMET Education

  • Teresa Larkin-Hein


This article reports on a research study designed to address the role of writing in terms of the assessment of student learning. The two-phase study involved an instructional technique for incorporating writing into the curriculum for non-majors. This technique was developed to bring science and engineering topics to the forefront in a new introductory physics course entitled Physics for a New Millennium designed exclusively for non-majors at American University in Washington, DC. Participants in the initial phase of this study were students enrolled in Physics for a New Millennium during the fall 1999 semester and those in the second phase were students enrolled during the spring 2001 semester. Throughout this course students were exposed to all aspects of preparing a formal research paper for publication. The process began with the submission of an abstract and was followed by the preparation of a draft paper for formal review, as well as the preparation of a revised, cameraready copy for publication in the conference proceedings. Students then presented their final papers at an in-class conference held at the end of the semester. A summary of the curriculum devised for this writing technique will be presented. In addition, lessons learned from the initial phase of the study will be shared along with how those lessons were translated into effective changes for the second phase of the study. Connections will be made to the importance of making science and engineering topics accessible to nonmajors through the active process of writing. Students? overall perceptions of this activity will also be shared.