Despite substantial evidence that writing can be an effective tool to promote student learning and engagement, writing-to-learn (WTL) practices are still not widely implemented in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), particularly at research universities. Two major deterrents to progress are the lack of a community of science faculty committed to undertaking and applying the necessary pedagogical research, and the absence of a conceptual framework to systematically guide study designs and integrate findings. To address these issues, we undertook an initiative, supported by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the Reinvention Center, to build a community of WTL/STEM educators to undertake a heuristic review of the literature and formulate a conceptual framework. In addition to generating a searchable database of empirically validated and promising WTL practices, our work lays the foundation for multi-university empirical studies of the effectiveness of WTL practices in advancing student learning and engagement.
This report describes measures and methods of data analysis and representation of a systemic approach to the assessment of curricular and pedagogical contributions to general education learning objectives. An existing system for student evaluation of teaching was transformed to enable faculty to designate the learning objectives of the course and students to evaluate the extent to which the course contributed to their self-appraised growth in intellectual skills. This systemic approach enables analysis at the level of the individual course and across courses with common learning objectives and pedagogical approaches. The utility of this system is demonstrated through assessing the differential contribution to general education learning objectives of curricular components and an innovative pedagogical approach that blends field-based research and service learning.