Assistant Professor of chemistry Dr. Raymond Pugh will continue his research on Writing-to-Learn through the Wisconsin Teaching Fellows and Scholars program. Pugh is one of three University of Wisconsin-Platteville faculty members selected for the 2019-20 program. The program supports outstanding educators in pursuing teaching and learning questions emerging from the classroom.
“Wow! It’s exciting,” said Pugh of his reaction to being selected. “It confirmed the belief that people are excited about it. They want to see the outcome of the research, see how it can impact my classroom and how it can be shared throughout the university.”
Writing-to-Learn, or WTL, is the idea of using writing to promote a deeper understanding of concepts for students. “It’s not learning to write,” said Pugh. “We are not teaching students how to write. We are framing writing assignments in a way that promotes students’ reflection in their writing process, which then in turn promotes their deeper understanding of the concept they are learning.”
The Wisconsin Teaching Fellows program gives Pugh the opportunity to interact with peers across the UW system and participate in five events throughout the year. “You get the camaraderie and learn a lot. As part of the program, they’re also teaching and giving tips and ideas on how you can make your classroom much more engaging,” he said.
Pugh is about two-thirds completed with his project. He said WTL helps students target a specific audience besides writing to their professor. “We are very clear in the expectations; we give them guidelines for the assignment including the use of outside resources if necessary,” Pugh said. “We’re very clear on the instructions. The assignments include a peer review and based on their peer review comments and drafts, they then re-write the draft.”
As Pugh’s research continues into the upcoming school year he will continue to conduct interviews with students who have participated. From previous interviews, “We found out they felt there might have been a difference in their performance, and perhaps done better if the writing assignments came first, and then followed by lecture,” he said. “We are now going to tease out the question. Does it make a difference if you lecture followed by the writing assignment or assign the writing first then lecture the material? It’s going to be an addition to the project.”
As Pugh enters his third year teaching at UW-Platteville he encourages faculty and staff to submit their proposals. “If you have an idea put it out there because not only are you going to get an opportunity to conduct the research within the classroom, but you are going to learn a lot about how students learn and our role in teaching,” he said. “You are going to create a lot of great friendships with your cohort.”
Pugh will be recognized at UW-Platteville’s convocation in August with the other university award winners.