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Building a Transformative Class for Freshman STEM Students to Think and Act Like Creative, Thoughtful Future Scientists

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD II: Increasing Engagement and Motivation of First-Year Students

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.5.1 - 22.5.13



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Paper Authors


George Roesch Johnson University of Wisconsin, Madison, Engineering Professional Development

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Associate Faculty Associate for the last eleven years at EPD, which is part of the College of Engineering at UW, Madison. I am responsible for teaching introductory and advanced technical writing,along with technical presentations.

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Reading, Reflecting and Writing about Social Media and the Grand Challenges to Encourage Freshman STEM Students to Think and Act Like Creative, Thoughtful Future Scientists. Turning a required freshman composition class for STEM students into a transformativecollege experience is a challenging task. Along with improving fundamental writingskills, encouraging students to think and participate in class discussions, to questionsources of information, and to entertain different points of views are just a few of thecognitive skill that need development for scientific work. With the help of the FreshmanInterest Group (FIG) program, which linked the composition class to the GrandChallenges course, the class was able to provide the students with a common intellectualexperience as well as a broader sense of a learning community enriching their collegeexperience. In order to quickly engage the students, and encourage them to think like“experts,” the composition class first focused on the students’ use of social media andgames. Focusing on the cutting edge topics of social media and game-based learningimmediately drew the students into the course as they monitored their computer use, orplayed and evaluated different educational games. In class they became the experts asthey discussed their findings, and this feeling of ownership continued into the semester asthey explored on parallel themes from the Grand Challenges course. Class discussion alsoflourished because students were required to write a three part structured reaction paperfor each assigned reading that included a summary of the author’s main points, adiscussion of the author’s sources and finally their critical reflection on the reading whichthey shared in class. Pre and Post surveys of the student opinions towards science andtheir future roles in science were conducted, to determine any change in perception orattitude. Further weekly emails sent by the students to the instructor reflected a growingawareness and confidence of their understanding of current challenges in science. Onestudent wrote: “This class is not discussion lead, but the class generates the discussion.”A few students generated their own digital documentaries of their first year experiences,which will be shared with future freshmen. The preliminary findings indicate that moststudents felt the class was a positive experience in helping them become clearer abouttheir professional goals.

Johnson, G. R. (2011, June), Building a Transformative Class for Freshman STEM Students to Think and Act Like Creative, Thoughtful Future Scientists Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17279

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