The Writing-to-Learn in STEM Bibliographic Database

The Writing-to-Learn in STEM (Sciences, Technologies, Engineering, and Mathematics) Bibliographic Database represents the contributions of a team of scholars and teachers in STEM research and education. The database is meant to be a tool for

  • STEM teachers seeking improved tools of student learning
  • STEM researchers seeking useful methods and examples for conducting research on teaching and learning
  • scholars of writing in disciplines (WID)
  • WAC and WID program leaders seeking useful classroom methods and assessment techniques for colleagues in the STEM disciplines.

The database was conceived and developed through a grant from the National Science Foundation (2010) to Duke University. The grant brought together a “WTL in STEM Working Group” made up of STEM researchers and educators, who began compiling published resources and designed a full-day workshop for the November 2010 conference of the Reinvention Center in Washington, DC. The Reinvention Center ( ) is a consortium of research universities that focuses on the systematic improvement of undergraduate education. Members of the Reinvention Center consortium were invited to send STEM faculty representatives to the conference. Travel support for the 60 STEM faculty who attended was provided by their institutions, who also promised to facilitate follow-up activities on their campuses.

At the workshop, the representatives heard presentations on the history of research on writing-to-learn pedagogy and on uses of technology in broadening the scope of writing to learn. Participants then worked on developing adaptations of WTL in their own and colleagues’ teaching, as well as imagining ways that they could use a database of published resources to

  • spread best practices in teaching and
  • promote systematic assessment of practice.

A further intent of the workshop was to encourage cross-campuses sharing of pedagogy and systematic assessment—both means toward achieving an empirically-based “spread of effect.”

A post-workshop survey of the participants conducted by the NSF evaluator revealed 70% to 90% positive response on a range of questions related to the activities and goals.

Composition and Navigation of the Database

The Web of Science and ERIC databases augmented the contributions of members of the WTL in STEM Working Group: 324 published sources (books, articles, reports, etc.) were reviewed, most of these published since 1994. The Working Group developed keywords for navigating the database, these keywords organized according to (1) course level, (2) discipline, (3) learning objectives, (4) type of assignment, (5) research rigor and methodology. You can view an extensive list of search terms on the search terms page.

An article theorizing and explaining the objectives and methods of the WTL in STEM project in greater detail has been published:

Reynolds, Julie A., Thaiss, Christopher, Katkin, Wendy, and Thompson, Robert J., Jr. (2012). Writing-to-Learn in undergraduate science education: A community-based, conceptually driven approac.h CBE—Life Sciences Education 11: 17-25. doi:10.1187/cbe.11-08-0064 Available at

We invite you to search the database. If you have questions or suggestions regarding use of the tool, or further suggestions of materials to add to the database, please contact Julie Reynolds, Department of Biology, Duke University:

--Submitted by Chris Thaiss, University Writing Program, UC Davis
Member, WTL in STEM Working Group