What We Do

Faculty Communities and Workshops

The first phase of WAES is a semester-long faculty learning community, with interactive sessions co-facilitated by writing studies and STEM members of our team. Throughout the semester, we explore and develop best practices in writing instruction through group brainstorming, reflection, and troubleshooting. We cover topics ranging from assignment design to scaffolding writing instruction to providing feedback on student writing.  

If you are interested in participating in WAE, or would like more information, contact Julie Zilles (jzilles@illinois.edu). 

 

A slide from a workshop with two examples of writing process illustrations and a description of writing-as-process.
A slide from a workshop with examples of writing process illustrations and a description of writing-as-process.

 

Mentoring

The second phase of WAES is mentoring, where we provide an interdisciplinary mentoring team to STEM faculty who are working to incorporate and adapt writing studies pedagogies for their classes. Goals are set by the faculty mentee and have included incorporating reflective and low-stakes writing, developing practices and materials that facilitate discussion of feedback practices with teaching assistants, adding and/or scaffolding writing assignments, developing more holistic rubrics, building peer review activities, and restructuring syllabi to include writing instruction.

 

Students with laptops and lab equipment sit at a table talking to their professor.
One faculty collaboration is with Mats Selen, who worked with our team to prepare students to write about uncertainty in his Interactive Online Lab (ioLab) courses.

Students perform an iOLab experiment while their professor watches.
 

 

Graduate-Level STEM Writing Course

Another branch of our work is a graduate level course aimed at current and future teaching assistants (TAs) that teaches students about writing across STEM contexts. The course was first taught in Spring 2021, and it focuses both on practicing writing for research and acquiring tools for writing instruction. Through this dual focus, our goal is to encourage students to make connections between their own writing experiences and their students’ development as writers. Course topics range from rubric development to data visualization to collaboration strategies. In addition to teaching the course, members of our team are conducting research with the graduate students in the course and their advisors. The research aims to assess the course to improve future iterations, and to add to understandings of how graduate students learn and teach writing in their fields.

 

A course promotion poster with the course name (ENG 598 WTG STEM Writing Practice/Pedgagogy), along with course times, a description, a paragraph on reasons to take the course, and a list of course topics. The poster is blue with yellow accents, with a white and blue diagonal stripe pattern at the bottom and an illustration of a clipboard with graphs in the corner.
A promotional flyer used to advertise ENG 598 WTG in Spring 2021

 

Assessment and Research

Our work is grounded in a transdisciplinary action research (TDAR) approach, meaning that we  aim to collaborate with stakeholders when developing interventions, and work to assess the impact of interventions through research in a cyclical process. Through surveys, interviews, observations, and analysis of course materials and curricula, our research continually informs the content of the WAES program and our work with STEM faculty on the course and curricular level. We have studied how students write and collaborate in lab settings, talked with faculty about how their own writing practices inform their teaching, and developed a set of learning goals and shared values for writing in STEM informed by workshops and focus groups with faculty from departments across STEM departments. Our ongoing research allows our interdisciplinary team to work together to create sustained change.

Matthias Grosse Perdekamp is presenting at a meeting, and points to a slide on Physics 280
Matthias Grosse Perdekamp presenting on Physics 280
A triangle insert is being used to demonstrate fluid mechanics on an experimental water table.
A picture taken of a fluid dynamics table during observation