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Writing to Learn Science, Technology, & Engineering

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  1. Writing to Learn Science, Technology, & Engineering What we can learn from deaf & hard-of-hearing (D/HH) college students

  2. Presenters • Patricia (Trish) Phelps • Austin Community College • Biology, Professor • pphelps@austincc.edu • Erika Shadburne • Austin Community College • Assistant Dean – Arts & Humanities • English for Speakers of Other Languages, Associate Professor • edomatti@austincc.edu

  3. Agenda The value of active learning in STEM courses The value of student writing in STEM courses The challenges of student learning by writing Resources and strategies of writing assessments Low-stakes writing approaches Scaffolding long-term class projects The role of revision in grading lab reports and papers

  4. Goals To convince you that you can adopt writing strategies in your courses without significantly increasing your work load To convince you that writing is an effective approach for deep learning and student success in your classroom To provide you with tools and examples of how writing can be an important tool for active learning pedagogy

  5. The value of active learning NOT a new idea for science teaching LABOR……………. ORATORY LABORATORY = Active Learning

  6. The value of active learning NOT a new idea for teaching, either “Education is not filling a bucket, but igniting a fire” - William B. Yeats www.wikimediacommons.org

  7. The value of active learning • Benefits to students • Better engagement • Remember content better • Better teamwork • Improved study habits • Enhanced critical thinking and problem-solving skills Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research, M Prince. J Eng Ed (2004)

  8. “Flipping” a classroom • A new and extreme form of active learning • lectures and readings done individually by students at home • homework done collaboratively in the classroom • teacher as mentor & coach for learning • “student-centered” learning “Flipping” is a term used since the 1990s

  9. Risks for the instructor New and extensive classroom activities: will they cover all the material? If the students do homework in class, how do you assess learning? If students learn collaboratively, how do you assess teamwork?

  10. Writing is Active Learning • Handout: Learning Activities to incorporate into a lecture taken from “From sage on the stage to guide on the side”. By: King, Alison, College Teaching, 1993, Vol. 41, Issue 1 • Notice how often active learning strategies have a writing component • the writing as the product of their learning • the writing as the process of their learning

  11. Writing as the process of learning • What has been learned from D/HH college students? • Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) • National Deaf Institute of Technology (NTID) • NSF-sponsored project: DeafTEC Gary Long gllerd@rit.edu Co-PI, DeafTEC Associate Professor Liberal Studies Senior Advisor to the President for Research Donna Lange donna.lange@rit.edu Center Director, DeafTEC Associate Professor Information & Computing Studies Myra Pelz myra.pelz@rit.edu Co-PI DeafTEC Associate Professor Information & Computing Studies

  12. Why D/HH students struggle with writing Limited auditory access to English Text is memorized rather than a reference for an inner voice World knowledge gaps Lack of Academic Language training in their first language (L1 ASL) ASL is a visual, spatial language with simultaneous grammar features while English is an auditory, linear language

  13. why ESL students struggle with writing Lack of time to achieve academic fluency Lack of exposure to new language Cultural differences Curriculum and pedagogical differences

  14. Why every student struggles with writing Many students don't have the necessary skills for college level writing Robert Kellogg - cognitive psychologist “10-year rule”: -Takes 10 years of sustained practice to develop skills in any given area Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers: A Story of Success -Takes 10,000 hours of practice to excel But we expect students to learn writing in one semester of English composition!

  15. Writing in the discipline Benefits John C. Bean, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the ClassroomI, 2nd Ed. (2011) “When we make students struggle with their writing, we are making them struggle with thought itself….Often the struggle of writing, linked as it is to the struggle of thinking and to the growth of a person’s intellectual powers, awakens students to the real nature of learning.”

  16. Writing in the discipline Misconceptions: Emphasizing writing and critical thinking in my courses will take time away from content. Writing assignments are unsuitable in my course. Adding more writing in my course will bury me in paper grading. I am not knowledgeable enough about writing and grammar to help students with their own writing.

  17. Writing in the discipline Misconceptions: Emphasizing writing and critical thinking in my courses will take time away from content. Much of educational research (see AAAS: Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education, 2009)shows that “less is more”. Students benefit from substituting breadth for depth. The STEM knowledge base is growing exponentially. We are in the information age where databases store and provide easy access to facts. Our students need to know the conceptsand how to think about STEM topics.

  18. Writing in the discipline Misconceptions: Writing assignments are unsuitable in my course. Really??? Why do we assign lab reports??? DeafTEC video: Scientists need to be good communicators!! https://www.deaftec.org/stanford-universitys-writing-matters Even in the most technical and mathematical of courses, the basics must be committed to memory before any problem-solving or critical thinking can be attempted: key works, basic concepts, and basic facts. These basics are not truly mastered until they can be used by the students and placed in a conceptual framework. NOTE: Students find writing assignments more engaging!

  19. Writing in the discipline Misconceptions: 3. Adding more writing in my course will bury me in paper grading. Rethinking the writing assignment: non-graded when appropriate short essays where flow and structure is not an issue 2-minute essayexample: begin class with “What are 3 key concepts of this chapter?” 2-minute essay example: end class with “Whatkey concept are you still unsure of?” The objective can be to engage students in their own learning, and to give you a “reality check” of their progress. (Completion grading?)

  20. Writing in the discipline • Misconceptions: 3. Adding more writing in my course will bury me in paper grading. National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) research (Anderson, Anson, Gonyea, & Paine, 2009): It isn’t the amount of writing but the quality of the writing assignment that adds deep learning. Effective assignments have these features: • Interactive components -brainstorming, drafting, feedback, inquiry & discovery • A meaning-constructing task - a task that matters to the student and the intended audience • Clear explanations of writing expectations - Specific objectives & grading rubrics

  21. Writing in the discipline Misconceptions: 3. Adding more writing in my course will bury me in paper grading. Methods can reduce the amount of time grading writing assignments: - grading rubrics for grading criteria - revisions, each graded with different rubrics - enlisting other students (or professionals) as first readers of drafts -collaborative small group tasks - peer reviews of drafts - class presentations - distributing examples of quality work to model their work Students perform better when interacting with their peers!

  22. Writing in the discipline Misconceptions: 4. I am not knowledgeable enough about writing and grammar to help students with their own writing. ACC Learning Labs are available to you for grammar and spelling checks. Your best feedback is to comment on students’ ideas: “I don’t understand what you mean by …..” “You seem to be overlooking this:…..” “I agree with your point, you have you also considered…..”

  23. Should grammar be a STEM concern? Should the quality of writing be ignored? How will students improve their writing if they aren’t challenged to practice good writing in allof their college courses? “Expecting non-native writers to produce fluent, unaccented English is an unrealistic goal.” - Gary Behm, Professor of Engineering, NTID

  24. Should grammar be a STEM concern? How can STEM faculty feel comfortable with grading grammar? Importance of grading rubrics: decide how many points you want to award for good grammar and how to determine the boundaries between full-credit and lost points and let your students know your policy or rubric ahead of time. ACC resources: You can require your students to go through a grammar- and spell-check prior to submission of an assignment.

  25. Common concerns about grammar All grammar errors do not have to be marked. Try to keep your grammatical corrections to two in the early assignments More useful than red-inking: comment on patterns of grammatical errors Prioritize: Errors that affect comprehensibility are more serious than surface errors. Expect errors to increase with more difficult tasks; grading system should reflect this. Attend to grammatical errors in a separate draft. Discussion: How do you react to the point of view that correcting grammatical errors must be limited?

  26. Tips for coaching grammar Eliminate “it”, “that”, “they”, and contractions from their lexicon! Learning grammar rules is ineffective – better learned by doing, practicing. Give them a reason to care: a competition? peer-reviewing (“copy editors”)? Prepare for “publication”? (Discussion Board entries?) Ask the student how much revision help they want from you – don’t overdo it. No more than 3 revisions. Comments should be about what is “better”, less about what is “correct”. Better at oral communication? Work with that! Have the student circle all verbs, pick a tense, and revise.

  27. Should English composition be a STEM concern? Low-level writing: knowledge-telling (encyclopedic) High-level writing: knowledge-transforming “Critical thinking tasks – which require students to use their expanding knowledge of subject matter to address disciplinary problems – motivate better study habits by helping students see their learning as purposeful and interesting” - John C. Bean, Engaging Ideas (2011)

  28. Learning science through writing We want our students to learn more than discrete bits of facts and knowledge. We want our students to connect knowledge in deeper learning, to understand how to think within a discipline that is new to them. The beginner college student often just wants the “right answer” from us. We actually want them to be able to sort out the answer for themselves by using their own reasoning. A writing assignment asks students to do this sort of struggle, to reason out and to defend their own answers.

  29. Learning science through writing • Low-stakes writing examples • Writing at the beginning of class to stimulate interest in what’s coming • Writing at the beginning of class to create cognitive dissonance (“burning questions”) Something the text suggests is true or controversial and/or posing a problem that has multiple solutions or interpretations. Example: “Is a carrot dead or alive?”

  30. Learning science through writing • Low-stakes writing examples • Writing at the beginning of class to probe a subject: • “What questions do you want to ask about last night’s reading?” • “What does it mean when the article says…?” • “Write down everything you remember from….”

  31. Learning science through writing • Low-stakes writing examples • Writing during class • to focus a lagging discussion (“Write about the point….”) • To cool off a heated discussion (“Now write from the opposing viewpoint….”) • To ask questions (“Ask me a question you need answered about….”) • To express confusion (“Tell me what is confusing you most about ….”)

  32. Learning science through writing • Low-stakes writing examples • Writing at the end of class • to sum up a lecture or discussion, ask students to write a question and submit it on a piece of paper to be used for review in the next class. • “What’s the most important thing you learned today?” • “What continues to baffle you about this topic?” • “What do you expect/need to learn about this topic the next time you come to class?”

  33. Learning science through writing Low-stakes writing examples Discussion: -What are you using in your courses? (or would like to try?) -How do you prepare your students for these assignments? -How do you grade these assignments? -How well do these assignments meet your objectives?

  34. Learning science through writing • Low-stakes writing applications Discussion: • “At this point, how do you see yourself using one or more of these strategies?” • “How would this benefit D/HH and ESOL students?” Supporting English Acquisition web site https://www.deaftec.org/resources/english

  35. Learning science through writing • Out-of-class writing activities: Journal Writing • Open-ended • Directed responses • Contemporary issues, science in the news • Exam preparation journal • Study journal, reflecting on how to learn

  36. Learning science through writing • Out-of-class writing activities: Reading Journals • Use margins to summarize a section, argue, or ask as question as you read • Reading logs: write about what you are reading • A summary • Analysis • Evaluation • Connection to personal experience

  37. Learning science through writing • Out-of-class writing activities: Creativity Exercises • Writing dialogues: imagine meeting the author of this theory or the developer of this software or the winner of the Nobel prize; have a conversation with her/him about his/her work. • Writing bio-poems • Playing metaphor games ( this is to that as ….) • Discussion Board game: “….and then….” (each student submits one sentence in series to map out the steps of a process)

  38. Learning science through writing • Writing Activity Discussion: • Choose one of the informal writing ideas that you have never used in the classroom before, and write a prompt or activity for students that will engage them in an informal writing task. • Share with others

  39. Learning science through writing • Scaffolding long-term writing activities • Break up the big project into small pieces that will fit together in the end of the project • Scaffolding provides the structure for the student • Scaffolding provides the scheduling to meet a long-term deadline • Learning by conversation, a process of learning: your feedback and responses help the student to sort out their thoughts; writing encourages deep learning (It is a process that includes practice…practice…practice….)

  40. Learning science through writing • scaffolding long-term writing activities • Start with low-level writing tasks: • Engagement of the student by asking how the project fits into the context of their lives • “data-dumping” or “all about” exercises: the bits of facts and knowledge needed for background information ( “World Book” essays) can be used to organize a higher-level writing activity. Once well prepared, continue by addressing the thesis, the discovery, or the problem to be solved, the more challenging part of the project.

  41. Learning science through writing • Example: a cancer project for BIOL1408 Introductory Biology (handout) • Aligned with common course objectives, with an emphasis on scenario-based learning, short essays, written reports, and class presentation • Students work on an authentic issue, activities including both teamwork and individual work • Scaffoldedactivities features in-class activities and homework assignments • Includes writing activities with revisions, peer evaluations and reviews, in addition to instructor grading • Combination of low-stakes and high-stakes writing

  42. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • Gary Behm, Engineering • Writing assignments of progressive length, quality • Week 1: “Write three sentences that explain Ohm’s Law.” • Week 2: “Describe the process in four sentences and a final sentence describing what you enjoyed most about this activity.” • Week 3: “List three different parameters required for speed calculations. Explain in three sentences why these parameters are important in calculation speed.” • Week 4: “In a paragraph, describe the tool you like the best and explain why you consider it superior.”

  43. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • Gary Behm, Engineering • Student outcomes of writing-intensive activities: • At the beginning of the course, many underprepared students were hesitant or not comfortable with writing. • Students improved in spelling, new vocabulary acquisition, and grammar • Biggest area of improvement: better written lab reports generated • Students’ writing quality was improved • Writing assignments helped instructor better understand students’ writing and communication difficulties.

  44. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • Tom Simpson, Information and Computing Studies • Wanted to improve writing levels in students, but did not know how to approach the problem • Solution: • Students write review after each lecture; start with bullets & progress to full sentences, paragraphs • Important: always provide feedback for revisions (communicate with them) • Students’ writing becomes their everyday activity. • Improve engagement – make it fun! • Role-playing scenario: students manning a “Help Desk”

  45. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • Tom Simpson, Information and Computing Studies • Student outcomes: • Helped students to understand the revision process and documentation • Grading rubric helped students understand weaknesses and gave them the opportunity to improve – and reduced grading time and effort • Improvements in student success & learning • Students did not mind the extra writing (!) • Was able to progress students to higher level questions (know, apply, analyze, synthesize, evaluate) • Student test & quiz responses less “canned” and more student-generated

  46. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • David Templeton, Chemistry • Goal: improvement in formal laboratory reports. • Wanted students to respond to a learning experience, rather than just answering questions • Modified Bloom’s Taxonomy: • Evaluative writing • Analytic writing • Descriptive writing

  47. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • David Templeton, Chemistry • Start small: descriptive writing, learning lab skills • I demonstrate a lab technique; they take notes and develop an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) • Revisions to SOPs, peer evaluations, final drafts go into their lab portfolios. • As lab techniques increase in complexity, the demands on their descriptive writing skills increase. • Analytic writing • Flow charts of experimental strategy in a lab exercise; concept mapping • Used later to scaffold formal lab report writing

  48. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • David Templeton, Chemistry • Analytic writing • Flow charts of experimental strategy in a lab exercise; concept mapping • Used later to scaffold formal lab report writing • Call the point in a protocol when the culminating event or result occurs a “Magic Moment”: tell them to record, and document results • Make use of “descriptive facilitators”: before and after photos of Magic Moments

  49. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • David Templeton, Chemistry • Evaluative writing: formal lab report • Prelab mapping (PREPS): Procedure, reagents, equipment, “Points to Consider” (describing the experimental Magic Moment), safety • Structured report, by convention: Title Introduction Goal Equipment/Materials Method/Procedure Data Analysis Conclusion

  50. NTID Examples of learning science through writing • David Templeton, Chemistry • Formal lab report revisions • Draft 1: a format pass; if there is incomplete or missing information, a revision is recommended • Draft 2: data & calculations are assessed; if there are problems, a revision is recommended • Draft 3: analysis and conclusions are assessed; if there are problems, a revision is recommended • Draft 4: problems with grammar? Suggest a one-on-one consultation or outside help (tutoring lab on campus) NOTE: “If you give students too much feedback, they cannot deal with it.”