Look What Happens When STEM Professors Teach Writing #makereducation

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Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College, has a piece in Forbes about an interdisciplinary course implemented at the college in 2009. The idea behind the course was to make writing a focus not only in the humanities but also in the STEM fields.

Our students major in STEM fields but also have a concentration in the humanities, social sciences and the arts (HSA). As a liberal arts college, we value students’ development as communicators, thinkers and scientists. Since our founding, we have focused on teaching our students to write, but this emphasis was centralized among HSA faculty. To communicate that writing is important across the STEM disciplines, we decided to try something new: engage faculty from all departments to teach WRIT 1, our first-year, half-semester introduction to college writing.

We launched the course in 2009. To date, nearly 40% of our STEM faculty members have taught the course, and WRIT 1 has become a favorite part of the new curriculum. As faculty members become involved in WRIT 1, they also become empowered to assign and respond to writing in their STEM courses.

Klawe speaks with Rachel Levy, an associate professor in Math, about the experience:

I never imagined that as a mathematics professor I would be allowed to teach writing. But even before the college implemented WRIT 1, mathematics courses emphasized communication. Some assignments have “style points” for clear writing, and students take pride in their homework. We have a required public speaking course for all mathematics majors. Communication skills are like a superpower. When students develop these skills, they gain tools that will serve them well beyond college. I was convinced to teach WRIT 1 when a chemistry professor told me that it would improve my own writing. It has; I used to avoid writing tasks, but now I find myself writing almost every day and enjoying it.

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