Biology professor presents innovative tool for teaching STEM writing

Dan Johnson

Dan Johnson, a biology professor at Wake Forest University, will unveil his automated tool for improving undergraduate science writing May 13-20 during the National Science Foundation’s 2019 STEM for All Video Showcase.

The presentation, “Using Data Science to Improve Student Writing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” explains how Wake Forest science students use a tool called SAWHET (pronounced saw-it) to pre-submit lab reports for feedback. SAWHET points out basic problems in the lab reports – a missing hypothesis or citation, for example – so the student can make revisions before turning it in for a grade.

The goal of the project is to teach students how to communicate their science clearly and be better prepared for the working world.

“Good communication skills are vital for the 21st century workforce, but it is hard to teach writing in big intro science courses,” Johnson said. “We are testing new strategies for teaching scientific writing that work in large-enrollment STEM courses.”

The tool can help college educators make scientific writing a routine part of their courses, Johnson explained.

This will be the first time Johnson has publicly presented the SAWHET project, which is funded by an NSF grant of nearly $280,000.

The STEM for All Video Showcase is in its fifth year. This year, it will feature more than 240 projects focused on STEM learning and teaching. Anyone can watch the presentations, post feedback and interact with the presenters.

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