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Center for Teaching Excellence

  • Disciplinary Writing

Techniques to Develop Student Disciplinary Writing Skills


Participation in research activities is a high-impact, educational practice for undergraduates and is a definitive part of most graduate degree programs. Writing about research results involves reflection and contributes to integrative learning. However, faculty may find mentoring students’ development as disciplinary writers challenging, particularly if students lack knowledge of, and comfort with, scholarly writing. The purpose of this workshop is to introduce and practice pedagogical techniques to increase student confidence as disciplinary writers. It is designed for faculty seeking to support and enhance their students’ entry into written disciplinary dialogue. Participants in the workshop practice a number of techniques to support student writing, and learn more about additional on- and off-campus resources available to support student writing.  

About the Facilitators

Sarah Gassman, Michelle Maher and Briana Timmerman have performed interdisciplinary research that is the basis for this session in response to a recognized need for competent disciplinary writing. The research and results are based on a Spring 2012 course, ECIV 798, where the presenters piloted several pedagogical strategies to facilitate students’ knowledge of, and comfort with, scholarly writing. 

Sarah Gassman specializes in geotechnical engineering. Her research interests are multidisciplinary in nature and currently include projects focused on non-destructive evaluation of foundations and bridge structures; the effect of soil aging on liquefaction potential; field performance of culvert pipe and behavior of embankment fill materials. Sarah is a member of the ASCE Geo-Institute Deep Foundations Technical Committee and the TRB AFS04 Subsurface Soil Structure Interaction Technical Committee. She is a former member of the USUCGER Board of Directors, where she served as Treasurer. 

Michelle Maher is a Professor in the Department of Higher Education Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Formerly she was an Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina, offering classes in the principles of college teaching and research skill development. While at USC, she facilitated faculty and graduate student writing groups to enhance scholarly productivity and build collegial networks.  She studies the process of knowledge creation through scholarly writing, focusing on scientific and engineering disciplines.  Her work has appeared in several leading journals, including Science, American Educational Research Journal, The Journal of Higher Education, and Studies in Higher Education.     

Briana Timmerman is Director of the Office of Instructional Practices and Evaluation at the SC Department of Education and an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina. At the Office of Instructional Practices and Evaluation, Briana leads a team of thirty skilled professionals in all subject areas for standards development, professional learning to enhance student achievement and value-added evaluation of performance. Her office helps South Carolina to develop teachers who are leaders in student achievement.

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