Editor’s Note

Susanne Hall

August 6, 2019

Abstract: Authors in issue 3.2 of Prompt share writing assignments developed for engineering, math, and English courses.

Editor’s Note

I am delighted to introduce you to issue 3.2 of Prompt, the first in which contributions from STEM fields are in the majority. We continue to be committed to our interdisciplinary mission, and we invite readers of the journal to share it widely with colleagues across the disciplines.

The issue begins with Matthew Rhudy’s “Breaking Away from the Traditional Lab Report: A Technical Email as a Writing Assignment in an Engineering Laboratory Course.” Rhudy considers a common pedagogical challenge: getting students to view writing in a laboratory course as a form of meaningful communication, rather than only a document for assessment by an instructor. Rhudy asks his mechanical engineering students to consider a likely rhetorical scenario for their professional futures—the email to a client.

Next, we have two contributions from the field of mathematics. Andrew Cooper’s “Understanding Mathematical Induction by Writing Analogies” offers a take on a creative strategy for teaching mathematical induction: turning to language. Cooper noted the key role that analogies played in many descriptions of induction, and he asked students to develop and describe their own analogies for this crucial form of reasoning. Peer review helped students develop and correct their analogies, giving depth to their burgeoning understanding of proof by induction. This assignment may inspire assignments outside of mathematics as well; the approach is applicable to teaching any technical concept in which a reference to analogy is a common strategy.

In “Beginning Mathematical Writing Assignments,” Alexander Halperin, Colton Magnant, and Zhoujun Magnant tackle another challenge in the field of mathematics: getting students to write in introductory-level courses. Problem sets are far more common than writing assignments in these courses. Halperin, Magnant, and Magnant get students writing short, logical arguments in response to two problems, and they offer clear details about how this kind of assignment can work in the context of an introductory math course.

Joyce Kinkead is well known for her excellent work promoting undergraduate research, particularly in the field of writing studies. In her piece for Prompt, “An Empirical Research Project in English and Writing Studies,” the spotlight is on empirical research, something few students in her Approaches to Research in English Studies course have previously undertaken. Kinkead shares a class-wide collaborative research assignment that she uses to help prepare students for independent, empirical research projects that follow.

Ann Wallace presents another highly collaborative English assignment in “Composing Comes Alive: Dramatic Presentations in the Writing Classroom.” Wallace’s assignment calls on students to collaboratively create and present a dramatic rendition of a literary text, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Wallace reports on how this assignment not only engages students, but also helps them meet learning goals related to reading, writing, and creative thinking in her course. The assignment could be applied to varied texts and adapted for use in many literature courses.

As we publish this issue, our editors are curious to know how assignments published in Prompt have inspired our readers’ writing assignments and teaching. If you have adopted or adapted an assignment from the journal and want to write about it for us, reach out with a query (thepromptjournal@gmail.com) and let us know.