The magical time of the year in which most Alpha students begin to look like raccoons by how deep their eye bags become, AKA the annual December science fair. It would be a shame, as an Alpha student myself, if I weren’t to commemorate this occasion with an article honoring STEM in the writing center. Other than the 30 page research paper each Alpha student must write at least twice during their time here at Lane Tech, most people see no correlation between the Alpha program and what the Writing Center has to offer. There is often a disconnect between the humanities and STEM, whether it’s false rivalries between students in Alpha or Omega, or perplexity at studies outside their interest. Rollins et al., studied how undergraduate STEM students can become better writers using writing center tutors, specifically trained to tutor STEM students.
Rollins and Lillvis, two of the authors, organized writing center workshops in “engineering, math, biology, geology, and computer science.” Rollins and Lillvis found that many of these STEM students receive very little feedback on their writing from their teachers, which was very frustrating to these students, as writing in an APA format for the first time can be very jarring for some students. Most writing center tutors in universities have historically come from English majors, which also makes them unfamiliar with APA writing. Speaking from personal experience there are currently only two Alpha writing center tutors at Lane. Although some writing center tutors take AP Seminar or AP Research, it is still not enough to properly aid such students.
One of the biggest difficulties with tutoring STEM students is that STEM is an all encompassing field from aerospace sciences to zoology, and oftentimes even a tutor who has experience in STEM, probably won’t know about every subject a student brings to them. In order to combat this Rollins and Lillvis had students that came to visit their tutors bring their course’s syllabus, assignment sheets, and rubrics. By supplementing the tutors with these extra materials, STEM students can expose their tutors to the specifics of their STEM field and gain more specific feedback from their tutors. These sessions with STEM students also benefited the tutors, as they were able to become more familiar with APA citations and the specifics of STEM writing, making them more equipped to handle appointments from science papers. The benefits that are gained from tutoring STEM students is a two way street, by communicating to the writing center the specific needs of STEM writers we can produce better tutors and writers alike, and create a better experience for STEM students who enter.
Rollins, Anna, et al. “Improving Students’ Comprehension of STEM Writing Conventions.” Writing Lab Newsletter, vol. 45, no. 1–2, 20202021, pp. 12–19.