Sciences and Engineering

Informal Writing Assignments

Brad Hughes, Martin Nystrand, Paige Byam, and Tom Curtis
The assignments below are generally short, informal, perhaps ungraded writing assignments that instructors might consider adapting to their classes. Students often appreciate the opportunity to explore their thoughts on paper in such a way that relieves the pressure of a longer, more formal writing assignment.

The Question Box

Sequencing Different Genres of Writing Assignments in a Women’s Studies Syllabus

Caitilyn Allen, Plant Pathology, UW-Madison
Professor Caitilyn Allen’s writing-intensive Women’s Studies syllabus includes her expectations for polished and revised drafts as well as overviews of the various papers she assigns throughout the semester.

Women’s Studies 530: Biology and Gender


Writing Portfolios in Biology: Balancing Process with Product

Cindee Giffen, UW-Madison
A course coordinator explains why the course evaluates biology students' drafts, reviews, and final products together in one portfolio.

In Introductory Biology 152, all students engage in an Independent Project (IP), a semester-long staged writing assignment. Students write a project proposal, a first draft, and a final paper in scientific journal article-style, and present their results to an audience of their peers and instructors.

Why Write in the Sciences?

Janet Batzli, Biocore, UW-Madison, and Michelle Harris, Biocore, UW-Madison
In this excerpt from the Biocore program’s Writing Manual, Janet Batzli and Michelle Harris discuss the role of writing in teaching a scientific discipline such as biology.

The Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) is a four-semester, laboratory-intensive, writing-intensive intercollege honors program. Each fall, approximately 160 students enter the sequence through Biocore 301/302. The combinations of Biocore 301/302 and Biocore 303/304 each fulfill the University’s Communication B requirement.

A Writing Portfolio Project in Math 130

Brad Franklin, Mathematics Department, UW-Madison
In this course for math-education students, students do a series of various writing assignments throughout the semester, culminating in this portfolio of their written work.

A Portfolio Project in Math 



Using Rubrics to Teach and Evaluate in Biology

Janet Batzli and Michelle Harris, Biocore Program, UW-Madison
This detailed rubric is not only designed to help connvey evaluation criteria to students and to help make feedback across sections of a large course consistent, but it's also clearly designed to help students learn the genre of an experimental research report in biology. 

Receiving Feedback

Writing is a process and even very experienced writers spend a lot of time rewriting.  Your TAs will give you feedback and suggestions on your papers to help you in this process.  Note, however, that it is not their responsibility to point out every flaw or to revise your papers for you.  Revising is your responsi

Peer Assessment of Research and Review Teams

Brian Manske, Biology 152, UW-Madison
When students work regularly in groups, some instructors find it helpful to have students assess each group member's contributions.  Here's an example of that kind of assessment, from Biology/Botany/Zoology 152 at UW-Madison.

Biology 152: Research and Review Team Peer Assessment Rubric


Bio152 Learning Goal - Develop and apply collegial etiquette and project management skills

Offering Students Encouragement As They Revise

Ann Burgess, Biocore Program, UW-Madison
In the following email sent to all students in a large course, Dr. Ann Burgess—former director of the Biocore program—encourages Biocore students to keep working on their revisions, even when they feel overwhelmed by criticism.
Re: Enzyme Catalysis Paper

Biocore Students:

Helping Your Students Improve Their Writing and Their Learning

Brad Hughes, UW-Madison WAC Program
Here are some suggestions, based on research and experience, for improving your students' writing--and for improving the experience you have assigning, reading, and responding to it.

While many of these principles and techniques take time to implement, and some may be logistically impossible in large classes, they have proven successful here and at many other schools in courses

Sample Rubric for Problem Reports and Reflections in a Math Course

Jamie Sutherland, Mathematics Department, UW-Madison
In this example, the instructor carefully explains the purpose of two different kinds of assignments and uses the rubric to identify the specific traits of strong papers.

Math 130 Sutherland

Lecture 1&2 Spring 2005


A Guide to Writing in Math 130


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