It Takes a Village to Train a Student

You know that old saying it takes a village to raise a child? My science-writing project has taken me on a crash course in student rearing, and let me tell you, it takes a village.

There is a reason why most science students don’t receive formal writing training from their home department… it’s hard. It requires an instructor to be multidisciplinary, both a scientist and a writer. I recently curated the twitter account @IAmSciComm and polled my audience on this question. Turns out, most people who follow the account aren’t educators or writers. And people that are, are most often one or the other, not both. So how do we teach science students to be good writers when few of their teachers are writers? Well, it takes a village.

I’m an earth scientist conducting a pedagogical research project that requires statistical analysis.  There is no way I could do this project justice and serve the students well if I tried to do everything myself. Instead, I found a village of experts to help out.

The Education Expert:

First, I met with Mary Pat Wenderoth, a faculty member in the Biology Education Research Group. She served as this project’s expert in intervention design. She helped me choose the right class – it needed at least 30 students from a variety of science backgrounds. She helped me define my control group and intervention group. And she sent me down the right path for a comprehensive review of academic literature

The Classroom Experts:

Next, I met with Miles Logsdon and Emily Roland, both faculty members in the Oceanography department who welcomed me into their classroom. They were the science experts who offered me their students, their classroom, and their curriculum. In a leap of good faith, they let me stick my fingers into their curriculum and give it a science-writing massage.

The Statistical Analysis Experts:

Just yesterday, I met with three experts in the UW Departments of Biostatistics and Statistics. They sat with me, listened to my goals and accomplishments, and helped me formulate an analysis plan. We decided a conditional logit model would be the most robust option for this project. Basically, I will formulate an equation that describes how the response variable (improvement in students’ writing skills) is affected by several predictor variables (the student’s GPA, year in program, gender, etc.). And, if I need it, which I’m sure I will, the consulting group is always freely available for me to ask more questions and receive more guidance.

The Cheering Squad:

This project couldn’t happen without our cheering squad, our supporters who have helped fund this work and offered their time as reviewers. My heart has been so incredibly warmed by the support you all have shown. After just one week, this project is almost 1/3 funded and we have enough reviewers signed up to start the evaluation!!!

I may not be an expert in education or statistics or be able to fund myself, but I’m not the only person in the village, and together, we have everything it takes to complete this project and train students.


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