Final Report of the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement

Appendix D

Summary Of Non-HASS Communication-Intensive Pilot Programs

Course  Subjects Terms Faculty Approx.# Students per term
2 2.672 Fa 99 J. Heywood 30
Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies (PWHS) lecturer worked with groups of students on drafts of a laboratory report
Student questionnaires extremely positive. Instructor assessment also positive.
3 3.931 Work Internship or Thesis Sp 99 D. Roylance, entire faculty 15
Students met with dedicated PWHS tutor for help in revising reports.
Both tutor and departmental writing coordinator report uneven effect. Student procrastination in seeing tutor reduced instructional benefit.
4 4.131, 4.132 Fa 98

Sp 99

Fa 99

Rotating faculty 30
Students in all senior design seminars participated in tutorials conducted by the PWHS. In these tutorials, students practiced their design presentations, reviewed videotapes of the presentations with the tutor, and revised their written design reports.
Department head and faculty teaching design studios enthusiastically support the oral presentation tutorials. They have repeatedly requested that similar tutorials be attached to graduate design subjects.
5 5.21 Sp 99 R. Danheiser

B. Tidor

Second-term seniors jointly prepare a 30-page original research proposal by the end of the term. Each student is required to prepare several oral literature and progress reports. The climax of the course is a site visit by a panel of distinguished external scientists who evaluate the proposed project after reading the proposal and listening to a 2 1/2 hour team oral presentation.
Although enrollment was low, both faculty and students reported that the class of an extremely valuable experience.
6 6.012 Sp99 J. del Alamo 100
Three writing assignments were added to the class: 1) Week 3: One-page letter associated with Problem 4 in Homework 3. Students were asked to write a letter to fictitious CEO on fictitious consulting job.

Assignment worth 25% of homework grade.

2) Week 8: One-page design review abstract associated with Design Problem 1.Worth 20% of design problem grade.

3) Week 12: One-page design review abstract associated with Design Problem 2. Worth 20% of design problem grade.

All writing assignments were graded by writing tutor. In first two, students were given chance to improve grade by resubmitting assignment. Tutoring sessions were offered. Many students took advantage of them. 

A Graduate Writing Fellow evaluated drafts of design assignments and helped students revise them.

Students reported that they did not like the writing assignment 

Lecturer observed significant hidden costs:

-For the instructor, there is a need to conceive writing assignments that are attractive, are well connected with the technical material, and further the educational goals of the subject. Since we have no material developed and the pace of the subject is already rather frantic, this is a relatively high cost. Additionally, there is a very real cost of managing a whole new series of assignments. The writing exercises require scheduling of grading, tutoring sessions, and special deadlines. This extra cost of management of the writing exercises is significant. Finally, for each exercise, some time is required to review and correct sample write-ups prepared by TAs.

-For the TAs, there is also a cost of management of deadlines, tutoring sessions, and extra material in need of proper routing

-For the students, these are three new assignments that did not exist before. 

. 6.021J Fa 99 D. Freeman 40
Optional writing clinics for the two large required laboratory reports. Aided by Professor Freeman and his TAs and a lecturer from the PWHS Undergraduate Writing Cooperative, students reviewed and revised their own team papers and reviewed papers by other students. In addition, Professor Freeman has integrated short writing assignments into each of the subject's weekly problem sets.
Although optional, almost all students participated in the clinics. 6.021J staff reported significant improvement from past years in the quality of writing in student reports. 
. 6.033 Sp 99 F. Kaashoek 300
Students wrote weekly one-page papers, one individually authored design report, and one group-authored design report. Approximately 60 students enrolled in an optional Writing Practicum attached to 6.033. In addition, writing tutors dedicated to 6.033 were available during extended hours for the week before the first design report was due.
Student evaluations indicate that the writing practicum sections are effective and helpful. Students made little use of dedicated writing tutors until 48 hours before the assignment was due.
7 7.13, 7.15, 7.16, 7.17 Sp 98

Fa 98

Sp 99

Fa 99

D. Housman

P. Matsudaira

M.-L. Pardue

T. Sinskey

PWHS lecturers gave presentations on various elements of scientific report writing and oral presentation. The same staff also regularly tutored students to help them revise project proposals and the final report. Biology Project Lab staff and PWHS staff jointly evaluated student oral presentations and written reports.
In several of the Project Labs, there was close and extremely effective collaboration between Project Lab and PWHS staff. A comparison of project lab papers written in conjunction with these tutorials with papers written in previous years demonstrates a dramatic improvement in the quality of student writing. Instructors have also reported dramatic improvement in the quality of student oral presentations.
. Biology Undergrad. Journal Tutoring Sp 98

Fa 98

Sp 99

Fa 99

P. Matsudaira & entire department 30
Students now normally complete Phase Two in Biology by submitting and an article to The MIT Biology Undergraduate (BUG) Journal. The article is reviewed by a Biology faculty member and students then revise the paper for publication with the assistance of tutors from the PWHS. There were 24 student articles accepted for publication for the first issue of the journal in 1998 and 37 articles published in 1999.
Biology undergraduates, biology faculty, and the MIT administration are all enthusiastic about the journal. There is a general consensus that this publication is a valuable addition to undergraduate education at MIT and has provided a new and significant motivation for students to improve their writing. There have been two presentations at national conferences that focused on the The BUG Journal, and there is considerable interest at other institutions in adapting the model.
8 8.059 Sp 98

Sp 99

R. Jaffe

J. Goldstone

In Spring 1998, Professor Robert Jaffe began requiring all undergraduate students to write a theoretical paper in the advanced undergraduate Quantum Physics subject, 8.059. Physics graduate students were trained as tutors to help students revise their drafts and students were also trained to peer-review each other's papers. The practice was repeated in Spring 1999, and now has become a regular feature of the class. Twenty-two Spring 98 student papers were published in a volume, Studies in Modern Quantum Physics: Student Papers in Physics 8.059.
Teaching staff involved in the class report that the overall quality of the student papers has been excellent. 
9 9.63 FA 99 B. Anderson 20
PWHS lecturer gave presentations on writing research proposals and laboratory reports.
10 10.200 Fa 99 C. Colton 8
Instruction in technical and expository writing, oral presentation, and team building skills was integrated into a pilot section of the Course 10 Sophomore advising seminar, 10.200. A Graduate Writing Fellow evaluated student writing and helped them prepare and revise argumentative and expository assignments. 
Professor Colton reports significant improvement in student writing skills.
16 16.684 Fa 99

Sp 99

D. Miller

D. Newman

Communication component attached to 16.684, three-term capstone Conceive, Design, Implement, & Operate (CDIO) subject. PWHS and the Sloan Communication staff provided instruction in oral presentation, report writing, and teamwork skills through a new practicum and the Undergraduate Writing Cooperative.
Students indicated in questionnaires that they wanted more instruction in technical communication basics and less instruction in teamwork and negotiation skills. The students, however, did appreciate the instruction in oral presentation and help in designing overheads.
18 18.100A


Fa 99 A. Mattuck

M. Artin

Communication-intensive "sidecar seminars" were attached to Analysis I and Algebra I. Students gave presentations and worked on a formal paper with faculty member.
Only 10 math majors participated in the seminars. Faculty assessment is mixed.
. Phase Two paper Seminars Fa 98

Fa 99

S. Kleiman 14
Professor Kleiman and one or two TAs worked one-on-one with students revising their Math Phase Two papers.
These tutorials are extremely rigorous and have been highly successful.
. Undergraduate Math Journal Fa 99 S. Kleiman  22
Students published their Phase Two papers in an annual journal.

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Last modified: February 14, 2000