June 16, 2002
June 16, 2002
June 19, 2002
7.1328.1 - 7.1328.13
Writing and Physics: A Powerful Linkage in General Education Teresa Larkin-Hein & P. Kelly Joyner American University
Abstract — During the Fall 2000 and Fall 2001 semesters, a joint study was undertaken between the Physics and Literature Departments at American University. The study involved the linking of two introductory general education Liberal Arts courses: an introductory physics class for non- majors and an introductory college writing class. One goal of the study was to provide more content-specific writing assignments within the college writing class by linking them to material being covered in the physics class. The writing assignments given in both classes formed the basis of the data collected during the study. The underlying questions behind the study involved the assessment of student learning in physics as well as in college writing. The primary research questions were: (1) Could this course linkage serve to enhance the motivation of Liberal Arts students to think more deeply and critically about the physics-specific content they were writing about in each class? (2) If so, could this enhanced motivation be linked to increased student understanding? In this paper, highlights of the curricula developed for the linked classes will be provided along with results of the assessment of student learning. This study should have broad- based applications for other educators within the domains of SMET education, particularly those interested in courses designed for Liberal Arts majors
The primary purpose of teaching is to facilitate student learning. However, many traditional teaching methods have clearly been shown to encourage passive rather than active learning , and passive learning hinders comprehension and long-term retention of important concepts. Students in traditional classrooms acquire most of their knowledge through classroom lectures and textbook reading, but good teaching involves a great deal more than simply pouring information into their heads. Students do not enter the classroom with a tabula rasa. They bring their own world views which have been developed and formed over their lifetimes . Students' world views often differ greatly from that of scientists and engineers. Often, due in large part to these differences, students emerge from our classes with serious misconceptions  -[ 7].
In recent years, a number of writing techniques have evolved that make use of various writing-to-learn strategies within the domains of engineering, mathematics, and the sciences  - . The use of writing in introductory physics classes for non-majors may help students develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In addition, writing can help them identify and confront their misconceptions about a specific topic in physics.
Science classes in particular are seen by many students as threatening and intimidating. Tobias  has been critical of introductory college science courses, arguing that typical classrooms are "competitive, selective, intimidating, and designed to winnow out all but the 'top tier' … there is little attempt to create a sense of 'community' among average students of science" (p. 9). Hence,
Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education
Joyner, P., & Larkin, T. (2002, June), Writing And Physics: A Powerful Linkage In General Education Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10876
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