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Knowledge Transfer across Academic Boundaries: Writing in CHE 206
Since 2012-2013, a writing-intensive (WI) course has been a general education requirement for all majors at AUS. Most WI courses have been designated at the 400-level, and many are capstone courses requiring a thesis. Yet, by the time students begin their senior projects and theses, they should have already had significant practice in discipline-based writing. Indeed, a more strategic response to this requirement is the designation of WI major courses at the introductory-level major courses, which generally fall at the 200 level. Offering a writing component at this level permits students completing their first-year writing courses the opportunity to reinforce their writing skills and apply them to assimilating discipline content and discourse. As CHE 206 Principles of Chemical Engineering II has been designated as an introductory-level WI course, Lynne Ronesi (Department of Writing Studies) and Ghaleb Husseini (Department of Chemical Engineering) undertook a semester-long research project to examine the main writing component--a research paper. This investigation involved surveys and interviews to discern the professor's and students' attitudes about the research assignment; observation during class discussion of the assignment; observation of student discussions with a writing tutor about their drafts; and review of syllabi, assignment requirements and submitted assignments. CHE 206 student responses suggested ways in which the assignment could be optimized to reflect "real-life" challenges and enhance their knowledge of the field. Accordingly, the research paper was modified, and additional requirements were added to prompt student independence. The subsequent semester marked students' heightened interest in this exercise and improved quality of the final draft. This presentation seeks to encourage designating introductory major courses as WI and to share effective practices which are generalizable to any course with a writing component.
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