Building communication into the curriculum

CBS enhances its Writing Enriched Curriculum with the aim to expand communication education across the college.
October 12, 2023

As students at one of the few colleges focused on biology, CBS undergraduates get a breadth and depth of the field throughout their academic careers. Whether in Foundations of Biology classes or advanced coursework in biochemistry or microbiology, students leave CBS with a deep knowledge of how the world works and ways to discover more about life all around us. While biology is a key component of the academic experience for students in the college, the hard science is not the only critical element of the curriculum. 

“We have the mantra of ‘The best way to learn science is by doing science’, and a huge component of doing that is communicating that science,” says Max Kramer, a teaching assistant professor in the department of Biology Teaching and Learning. “Our students will go on to many different careers and they're all going to need to do some sort of writing, whether it’s communicating with collaborators on a research project, talking with potential funders about the importance and the impact of your work in your research or communicating with audiences outside of academic biology.”

Kramer is one of the college’s co-liaisons to the Writing Enriched Curriculum (WEC) program, an effort led by the University to improve undergraduate writing and communication curriculum in departments and colleges across the University. CBS started working with WEC in 2010 to get guidance on ways to enhance the college’s curriculum and student writing capabilities. After several iterations and refinements, the college is in a "legacy" stage designed to embed the writing curriculum more deeply in courses across the college.

“One of our goals at this stage is to have a more coordinated effort in sharing ideas and resources across different courses and instructors and levels of the curriculum,” says Kramer.

In particular, Kramer and fellow WEC liaison Deanna Koepp hope to build the college’s capabilities in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice efforts in its writing curriculum, providing resources on approaching AI’s impact on students’ work, as well as build connections among faculty to have a common writing curriculum thread for students throughout their undergraduate experience.

“For our DEIJ work, people might have been doing things in their individual courses that now we're going to have a centralized resource hub for instructors to access for best practices,” Kramer says. “But we also hope to have more meetings, panel discussions and workshops specifically focused on relevant topics so we can get people together in the same room to see what's happening at different levels of instruction., I think that will be really helpful.”

—Lance Janssen