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Teaching Outside the Discipline: A STEM-related Course in a Non-STEM Curricular Area

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Physics & Physics Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1481.1 - 26.1481.16



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Paper Authors


Teresa L. Larkin American University

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Teresa L. Larkin is an Associate Professor of Physics Education and Faculty Liaison to the Pre-engineering Program at American University. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with emphasis in Physics and Science Education from Kansas State University. Dr. Larkin is involved with Physics Education Research (PER) and has published widely on topics related to the assessment of student learning in introductory physics and engineering courses. Noteworthy is her work with student writing as a learning and assessment tool in her introductory physics courses for non-majors. She has been an active member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) for over 25 years. Dr. Larkin served on the Board of Directors for ASEE from 1997-1999 as Chair of Professional Interest Council (PIC) III and as Vice President of PICs. Dr. Larkin has received numerous national and international awards including the ASEE Distinguished Educator and Service Award from the Physics and Engineering Physics Division in 1998. Dr. Larkin received the Outstanding Teaching in the General Education Award from AU in 2000. In 2000 – 2001 she served as a National Science Foundation ASEE Visiting Scholar. Dr. Larkin is the author of a book chapter published in 2010 entitled “Women’s Leadership in Engineering” in K. O’Connor (Ed.) Gender and Women’s Leadership: A Reference Handbook (Vol. 2, pp. 689 – 699). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. In 2013 her paper entitled “Breaking with Tradition: Using the Conference Paper as a Case for Alternative Assessment in Physics” received an award for best paper in a special session entitled Talking about Teaching (TaT’13), at the 42nd International Conference on Engineering Pedagogy (IGIP) held in Kazan, Russia. In January 2014 the Center for Teaching, Research and Learning at AU presented Dr. Larkin with the Milton and Sonia Greenberg Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award 2013. Dr. Larkin can be reached at

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Teaching Outside the Discipline: A STEM-Related Course in a Non-STEM Curricular AreaMost of us who teach within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curricularareas expect to have teaching assignments that directly align with these disciplines. A teachingassignment in a curricular area outside of STEM is much less common. The focus of this paper is todescribe a course that is taught by our physics faculty entitled Changing Views of the Universe.Changing Views is a course that is part of our general education core of courses in a curricular areaentitled Traditions that Shape the Western World. Courses taught within this curricular area are typicallytaught by such departments as anthropology, art history, communication, government, history, andphilosophy. Students who enroll in this course are non-science majors who are looking to fulfill theirgeneral education requirements towards graduation in this particular content area. Because the course isfilled with non-science majors, the often technical course content must be presented in a non-mathematical way. Since the course content includes just about everything from the Big Bang to ourpresent-day understanding of the cosmos, teaching these topics without much mathematics presents manyunique challenges. A description of the curriculum developed for the Changing Views course will beprovided. Particular attention will be placed on some of the unique ways a writing-based approach hasbeen implemented with the ultimate goal of enhancing of student learning. In addition, strategies such asrubric development and time-saving grading techniques related to the use of these writing-basedapproaches will be shared.

Larkin, T. L. (2015, June), Teaching Outside the Discipline: A STEM-related Course in a Non-STEM Curricular Area Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24818

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