Writing And Physics: A Powerful Linkage In General Education
2002 Annual Conference Proceedings
During the Fall 2000 and Fall 2001 semesters, a joint study was undertaken between the Physics and Literature Departments at American University. The study involved the linking of two introductory general education Liberal Arts courses: an introductory physics class for nonmajors and an introductory college writing class. One goal of the study was to provide more content-specific writing assignments within the college writing class by linking them to material being covered in the physics class.
... the physics class. The writing assignments given in both classes formed the basis of the data collected during the study. The underlying questions behind the study involved the assessment of student learning in physics as well as in college writing. The primary research questions were: (1) Could this course linkage serve to enhance the motivation of Liberal Arts students to think more deeply and critically about the physics-specific content they were writing about in each class? (2) If so, could this enhanced motivation be linked to increased student understanding? In this paper, highlights of the curricula developed for the linked classes will be provided along with results of the assessment of student learning. This study should have broadbased applications for other educators within the domains of SMET education, particularly those interested in courses designed for Liberal Arts majors Session 3280 a traditional science classroom may present barriers that inhibit learning for so me students. The active process of writing provides a non-threatening mechanism through which students could reduce or even remove these barriers to learning. Tobias  also indicates that writing can serve as a means to help students relieve their anxiety, and help them unlearn models and techniques that have proven scientifically unsound. This paper describes a novel technique for infusing more writing into the introductory physics curriculum for non-majors by linking one section with an introductory college writing class. The course linkage was designed to provide more physics-and science-related writing assignments within the college writing class by linking them to material being covered in the physics class. In addition, some of the college writing class assignments directly followed writing assignments given in the physics class, thus enhancing the course linkage.