First Year Writing Program

Success at Georgia Tech in using embedded librarians and artists in first-year composition (FYC) classes (English 1101/English 1102) has led to the development of an embedded astrobiologists program.  The embedded scientists will bring their science and that of the larger astrobiology community to the undergraduate students in the course. In addition, four Brittain Postdoctoral Fellows will participate in the assessment of the program.

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The project will extend existing research—through student-faculty interaction and innovative teaching practices. Our project will investigate the results of embedding astrobiologists in writing and communication courses. For example, generative process, revision, and reflection are integral to writing and communication pedagogy. Astrobiologists will enhance these practices by introducing students to different approaches to creation and critique. Our goal is to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of collaboration between scientists (in this case, astrobiologists) and faculty/students in the Writing and Communication Program (WCP). In their writing and communication classes, undergraduate students will interact with the astrobiologists to better understand course content through written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal communication. Each astrobiologist will offer students a distinctive, hands-on perspective about approaches that are typical in science.

The dissemination of project results will include (1) a panel presentation to interested members of the Georgia Tech community by the participating astrobiologists and WCP faculty, (2) TECHStyle articles, (3) an offered CETL session, and (4) at least one peer-reviewed pedagogical article. Descriptions of the courses, including course syllabus, detailed assignments, and reflections—from both the WCP instructors and the astrobiologists—will be archived, so future instructors can build similar courses upon this foundation. 6 Collaboration between FYC instructors and astrobiologists will lead to new ideas regarding lesson plans, course organization, and classroom management. The collaboration will provide opportunities for new kinds of multimodal assignments and feedback for students from both WCP instructors and astrobiologists. Three factors will be used to assess the success of this project: changes in content knowledge, the communicative quality of student-produced artifacts, and attitudes about astrobiology and other sciences.

This project has significance for the Institute as a whole. With a successful pilot, this innovative teaching practice of embedded astrobiologists can be applied to a range of courses at Georgia Tech. It will facilitate collaboration among instructors, not only in writing and communication courses but also in other disciplines at Georgia Tech. This collaboration will also foster interdisciplinarity, critical thinking, and creativity/innovation in the students who take these courses.