A new program to help undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students improve their writing skills has launched at Washington State University.
According to the federal government’s 2021 National Assessment of Educational Progress report, up to three-quarters of high school students about to enter college cannot write at a basic level. While the WSU Undergraduate Writing Center already offers peer support for students who need help with writing, the new program, WriteSTEM, has a particular focus on improving writing skills in STEM fields.
“The spectrum of students we see is so broad, from those who were ready to become professional science writers to students who struggle to write a sentence to everything in between,” said Phil Mixter, professor associate at the School of Molecular Biosciences. “The WSU Writing Center has a long history and is a really well-oiled machine using a peer-to-peer model, but if you walk in and there’s no one there who understands the scientific language or the nuances of a lab report compared to other types of reports, that’s the niche we’re really trying to fill. »
WriteSTEM is open to all students, and participants will have access to web-based writing tools and online instructional videos, in addition to one-on-one time with peer coaches. STEM instructors and teaching assistants are encouraged to refer students who are struggling with writing to the center. The program will meet from 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays at SPARK 208 and via Zoom for students on other WSU campuses or who cannot attend in person. In-person participants will receive snacks.
Mixter worked closely with Michael Dunn, assistant professor at WSU Vancouver’s College of Education; Martina Ederer, assistant professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine; and Emma Ledbetter, a recent graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine, to establish the program.
“Students can struggle with scientific writing, and often those who would benefit from help don’t ask for it,” Ederer said. edition at a specific time could encourage students to participate.”
WriteSTEM debuted in the 2021-2022 academic year at the College of Veterinary Medicine as a pilot program funded by an Educational Research Grant from the college’s Teaching Academy.
Twelve students participated in the program, and preliminary results indicate that students found the web tools and writing videos useful, although students rated the direct input from an experienced editor as the most useful.
Now open to students at all WSU campuses, the program is funded by a Smith Teaching and Learning Scholarship through the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Endowment, created in 2000 when WSU President Samuel Smith retired.
“Over time, we anticipate the program will grow and eventually become self-sustaining by allowing students who come for help to later take on a mentoring role and help subsequent students,” Ederer said. “It’s a great opportunity to build community.”
Students interested in additional information or to participate in the program should email Mixer at [email protected]. Students with strong STEM writing skills and interested in becoming a peer coach can also contact Mixter.