Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior is a small interdisciplinary department within the University’s College of Biological Sciences. The department’s 25–30 faculty members teach courses that combine theoretical, experimental, and observational research, and use both field- and laboratory-based approaches to address questions that scale up from organisms to landscapes and ecosystems. Approximately 70 undergraduate students are currently enrolled in the EEB major.
Creation Phase (Fall 2008-Spring 2009)
Faculty in this department align with three subfields, as suggested by the department’s name. In Creation Phase, as they were hammering out their lists of disciplines-specific writing characteristics and abilities, most suggestions were prefaced with this qualification, “Well, this is probably true only in my field, but…” Invariably, however, those in the other two fields would jump in to say, “No, that’s true in my field too!” Among the more interesting writing characteristics are these: Writing in EEB addresses variation as well as pattern; writing informs both science and policy needs, and therefore addresses diverse audiences; and writing should be synthetic, pulling together results and ideas from multiple sources to reach novel conclusions.
Implementation Phase (2009-2010)
Enthusiasm for the WEC project continued as this unit’s Writing Plan moved into Implementation Phase. As they met to create the plan, faculty members agreed that they needed more information about the types of writing assignments and feedback their students were receiving. Thus, an RA was hired to interview members of the faculty, collect syllabi, writing assignments, and grading criteria used in all EEB courses. The RA, working together with faculty members, was then able to gauge the matches between existing writing instruction and the desired writing abilities articulated in the unit's Writing Plan. Meanwhile, faculty members and graduate students participated in four customized workshops: "Designing Effective Writing Assignments,""Commenting on and Grading Student Writing," "Running Effective Peer Response Workshops," and "Writing Instruction in 5 Minutes."