There has been a significant push in academia in recent years to steer students towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM related careers. One area that has been less emphasized as a component of STEM is learning technical writing, according to professors at Arkansas State University.
Two ASU professors have taken on a project to help students better prepare for a career in the STEM professions. Through new courses to be developed, students will have opportunities to become more skilled in technical writing, according to ASU.
Dr. Anne Grippo and Dr. Kristi Costello will lead a disciplinary project, “STEM Writing to Read.” The National Science Foundation (NSF) has given the university a $300,000 grant towards the project. Other partners include Dr. Airek Beauchamp, assistant professor of English, who helped design and write the grant proposal, and the Office of Behavioral Research and Evaluation (OBRE) in the College of Educational Behavioral Science.
The grant is designed to develop and evaluate an approach for helping biology students learn professional writing skills, as well as critical thinking and reading skills.
Grippo, professor of biological sciences and interim dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, and Costello, associate professor of English and director of the Writing Program and the Writing Center, analyzed the results of pilot studies in order to develop the program. With a two-pronged approach, they will work with English faculty to design two STEM technical writing courses – one for undergraduate biological sciences majors, and one for STEM and English graduate-level students.
The undergraduate course will be taken concurrently by all students in the biology of the cell laboratory class, a required course for biological sciences majors.
Those who complete the graduate-level course also will participate in special training for teachers, then will be assigned to assist students in the undergraduate course.
“Based on our pilot study results, we expect that the undergraduate biology students will improve their technical writing skills, their critical thinking ability, and their ease in reading and interpreting the scientific literature,” Grippo said. “A-State graduate students in STEM programs and English will attain communication and teaching skills that are crucial to their future careers. This program will serve as a model to increase all students’ capabilities and progress in STEM, and enhance STEM communication.”