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 2,200 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 department by department.
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 in composing traditional lab reports that are closer to scientific papers. CBS faculty members continue to develop and use a variety of teaching strategies, including Five-Minute Writing Workshops for efficient and timely writing instruction. 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 in addition to other resources are posted on their Teaching with writing website.
In its third-edition plan, the College of Biological Sciences continues to maintain its innovations in TA training and lab courses, and to prepare for the continued growth in biological sciences majors in the coming years. This plan includes familiarizing new faculty with the role of writing within the curriculum, rightsizing the WI offerings in the department, incorporating writing-to-learn activities in large enrollment courses, and developing effective supplemental instruction for undergraduate directed research.
In 2015, CBS's Leslie Schiff 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. 2018 will bring the first STEMWrite institute to the campus of the University of Minnesota.