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WEC Unit: College of Biological Sciences


The College of Biological Sciences (CBS) has a complex, interdisciplinary structure, including five academic departments and seven academic majors. The College enrolls more than 2200 students who pursue Bachelor of Sciences degrees in those seven majors. Although the specializations of the majors differ, they share a foundational core curriculum, and thus undertook the WEC process as an entire college rather than working piecemeal, department by department.

Activity Highlights:
After conducting a study of instructional artifacts used in all lab courses, CBS faculty members focused on improving the authenticity of lab reports in 2K-level Biology lab courses. These courses now incorporate explicit instruction in reading scientific papers and revised traditional lab report assignments in ways that move them closer to scienfitic papers. Thus, in the revised assignments, students practice describing authentic methods, results, and composing synthetic discussion sections. Biology instructors also developed assignments that directly teach students how to present data in properly captioned figures and tables. Instructors in those courses are broadly sharing their materials and assignments with other faculty members to foster curricular linkages and transfer of student learning.

CBS faculty members continue to develop and use a variety of teaching strategies, including Five-Minute Writing Workshops for efficient and timely writing instruction; they also offer, in a 1K-level course taken by all CBS first-year students, an elective conversation about the importance of writing in the sciences and in the CBS curriculum. Finally, to ensure that faculty, instructors, and students are simultaneously aware of what is valued in writing across their majors, the college's list of valued undergraduate writing abilities is posted on their website.

In 2015, CBS's Leslie Schigg and WEC's Pamela Flash, with colleagues from the University of Michigan and Duke University, received a 5-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation's IUSE program to investigate impacts of low-stakes writing activities on critical and conceptual learning in STEM courses. The project builds on the ongoing success of the U's innovative Writing-Enriched Curriculum Program (WEC).

Writing Plan

Center for Writing  10 Nicholson Hall&nb=sp;   216 Pillsbury Dr. SE    Minneapolis, MN 55455    Phone: 612-625-0791   Fax: 612-626-7580