2019 STEMwrite Institute Accepting Applications

  • Jan 4, 2019

The 2019 STEMwrite Institute invites faculty teams from the biological sciences to a lively and productive multi-day institute that will (1) acquaint them with evidence that indicates positive impacts assigned writing can have on conceptual learning, and (2) provide a sequenced workshop in which they will develop brief, high-impact writing prompts to implement in large-enrollment introductory biology courses.

The Institute will be held at the University of Minnesota on June 26-28, 2019.

Goals for the 2019 STEMwrite Institute are:

  • To engage participants in a process for developing effective writing-to-learn activities (prompts/assignments, online peer review protocols, and assessment tools) that encourage both durable conceptual understanding and attention to students’ development as scientists and science writers.
  • To share research findings on drivers and barriers to the use of writing in STEM disciplines, based on survey responses of 5,000 STEM faculty at ReinventionCollaborative member institutions.
  • To present evidence on the effective development and implementation of writing-to-learn activities in biological sciences across participant campuses.
  • To establish a network of faculty members and researchers interested in participating in a sustained community of practice focused on writing to learn in STEM education.

The organizers invite applications from institutional teams (4-5 members) that include key instructional personnel and faculty in biology as well as others charged with improving undergraduate STEM education and/or writing in the disciplines (from campus-wide centers for teaching and learning or writing centers). Participants will leave the STEMwrite Institute with ready-to-use writing to learn prompts and peer response activities that maximize student learning in large classes while minimizing instructor’s response and grading load. Participants will also fashion an assessment plan to evaluate their assignments at their home institutions and action plans to guide subsequent iterations.

Comments from last year’s participants:

  • "Each of the sessions was incredibly helpful. We're leaving with our prompt and the assessment prompt almost entirely complete. This is due to the excellent organization, direction, and support provided by all the facilitators."
  •  "I was highly skeptical that we'd be able to implement a WTL intervention (or even two like we are now planning) into our large, 280-student class. But leaving with the prompts so close to completion has empowered us to pursue and evaluate the impact of these interventions."
  • "I am more convinced that writing could be implemented effectively in large classrooms that face barriers such as lack of TAships, time constraints, etc.”

This institute, the second of three annual offerings, draws substantially on an ongoing program of research developed in conjunction with the Reinvention Collaborative and funded by the National Science Foundation. Addressing the Boyer Commission’s (1998) call for an increase in research-based pedagogy, and Rivard’s (1994) call to understand better the metacognitive processes by which writing activities support conceptual learning, our three-institution team (University of Michigan, Duke University, and the University of Minnesota) is investigating the use of writing activities to help students learn key scientific concepts. This research aims to reveal both the effects of writing to learn interventions on students’ conceptual learning gains and the mechanisms by which these learning gains are achieved, including metacognitive awareness and regulation of learning. 

The Institute takes a three-pronged approach:

1) using student- and faculty-generated survey data to investigate drivers and barriers to the use of writing-to-learn activities in STEM-based courses.

2) partnering with STEM faculty members to identify traditionally troublesome scientific concepts in their courses; develop and implement assignments that target these concepts through engaging students in the process of writing, peer review, and revision; develop and implement assignments that target these concepts through engaging students in the process of writing, peer review, and revision.

3) assessing changes in students’ conceptual knowledge that result from these written interventions. Importantly, our technology-supported intervention encourages student learning and revision and reduces barriers to implementation most often identified by science educators, particularly those teaching large-enrollment introductory courses and labs.

The 2019 STEMwrite Institute will be held June 26th, 27th, and 28th in Bruininks Hall, the University of Minnesota’s state-of-the-art science teaching facility.Support for 4-5 team members to attend the Institute, including lodging accommodations, breakfast and lunch for the three days of the Institute, and domestic travel will be provided by the NSF grant, “Accelerating the pace of research and implementation of Writing-to-Learn pedagogies across STEM disciplines.”

Up to five institutional teams will be invited to attend. To apply, teams are directed to detail their interest by completing this application survey by February 1, 2019. Teams will be notified of decisions by February 14th and asked to register by February 22nd.

Questions can be directed to Leslie Schiff (schif002@umn.edu) or Pamela Flash (flash@umn.edu).