The Department of Earth Sciences is an interdisciplinary department within the University’s College of Science and Engineering. The department’s 28 faculty members teach courses that use theoretical, computational, experimental, and observational techniques to understand the integrated physical, chemical, and biological processes that link the solid Earth to surface dynamics and life. The approximately 70 students enrolled as Earth Sciences majors study the history and functions of our planet from its origin to today.
In their responses to WEC survey questions, the department's professional affiliates emphasized how central a role writing plays in their daily work, and how valuable they consider Earth Sciences' focus on integrating writing instruction through the curriculum.
The Campus Writing Board approved the department's first-edition Writing Plan in July 2013. Earth Sciences faculty members created a comprehensive curricular map showing which departmentally-identified student writing abilities are expected in which courses and assignments, as well as whether and how those abilities are being taught, practiced, and built upon. The results of this mapping guided the department's subsequent implementation activities.
In its second-edition Writing Plan, implementation focused on making the use of WEC rating criteria more explicit in courses which include writing. A WEC RA carried out individual meetings with faculty and discussed grading rubrics and genres common in Earth Sciences writing.
For its third-edition Writing Plan, approved in Spring 2017, Earth Sciences has articulated four core activities to sustain its WEC efforts: (1) developing an online Writing and Communication resource—linked to the department’s homepage—which includes guidelines for creating scientific, posters, presentations, and other documents important to fields in the geosciences. ; (2) launching a half-day training workshop on writing instruction for Teaching Assistants; (3) integrating WEC assessment efforts with the department’s evaluation of its Student Learning Objective #4, "Students can communicate scientific information and ideas effectively to various audiences in appropriate modes"; and (4) piloting ELI Review, an online peer review platform, in several upper-division courses.