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Writing: A Novel Strategy To Bring Issues In Science And Engineering To Non Majors

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.729.1 - 5.729.11

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Teresa L. Hein

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3230

Writing: A Novel Strategy to Bring Issues in Science and Engineering to Non-Majors

Teresa Larkin-Hein American University, Washington, DC


Writing has long been established to be an effective means of expressing one’s ideas, thoughts, and understanding about nature and the world. This paper will report on an ongoing research study designed to address the role of writing in terms of the assessment of student learning. To this end, a new instructional technique for incorporating writing into the curriculum for non- majors will be described. This technique was developed to bring science and engineering topics to the forefront in a new introductory physics course (Physics for a New Millennium) designed exclusively for non-majors at American University in Washington, DC. Participants in this study were enrolled in Physics for a New Millennium during the fall 1999 semester. The technique employed required students to write and present a scientific paper for their peers. Students were exposed to all aspects of preparing a paper for publication including the submission of an abstract, the preparation of a draft of their paper for a formal review process, and the preparation of a revised, camera-ready copy for publication in the conference proceedings. Students were also required to present their final papers at the New Millennium Conference at the end of the fall 1999 semester. In this paper, a summary of the curriculum devised for this writing technique will be presented. Writing topics selected and presented by student participants will also be shared. In addition, links will be made to the importance of making science and engineering topics accessible to non-majors through the active process of writing.

I. Introduction

The primary purpose of teaching is to facilitate student learning. However, many traditional teaching methodologies have clearly been shown to put students in a role of passive rather than active learning 1. In addition, traditional instructional methods have been shown to be clearly inadequate in terms of promoting deep learning and long-term retention of important concepts. Students in traditional classrooms acquire most of their “knowledge” through classroom lectures and textbook reading. Good teaching involves a great deal more than simply pouring information into the heads of students. Students do not enter the classroom with a tabula rasa. Instead, students bring with them their own world views which have been developed and formed over their lifetimes. Cobern 2 describes a world view as “… how one understands the world” (p. 15). Furthermore, students’ world views often differ greatly from that of scientists and engineers. A troubling fact is, after instruction, students often emerge from our classes with serious misconceptions 3 – 7.

Hein, T. L. (2000, June), Writing: A Novel Strategy To Bring Issues In Science And Engineering To Non Majors Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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