English 202A, writing for the social sciences, is a core part of the curriculum for all social science majors. However, the course is managed completely by the English department, with no input from the social sciences the course serves. Often people are placed on the course with limited knowledge of the social sciences (e.g., a poet in residence), and no guidance as to what students are expected to be able to do following the course (literally, nothing beyond the course description). Two limitations to improving this situation are: 1) No one likes to be told what they should teaching in their own course, especially not between disciplines. 2) No one knows what the expectations of the social science faculty are. Our goal is to survey social science students, social science faculty that teach upper level courses, and 202A instructors, to determine the degree to which 202A instruction prepares students for the specific tasks expected of them in 400 level social science classes. We will produce out of this a document that can serve as a guide for 202A instructors. The guide will tell instructors what is expected of 400 level students, and give advice as to resources that can help teach those skills. The product will be purely advisory, and at least a few 202A instructors have said they would be really happy to have such guidance. We hope that the guide will be useful for other Penn State campuses, and that this project can serve as a model for scientifically informed curricular recommendations in other contexts.
We hope to produce documents that can be given to current and new English 202A instructors to aid them in better preparing students for their upper-level classes. We will also assess the effectiveness of those measures in producing better prepared students. We have already gotten IRB approval for the student surveys and administered them the past two semesters. We are in the process of getting IRB approval for the interviews, and will begin those later this semester.
- Stephen McFall, Student Research Assistant
- Nicholas Tsentas, Student Research Assistant
- Eric Charles, Co-Leader
- Nicholas Rowland, Co-Leader