This Course at MIT

This Course at MIT pages are part of the OCW Educator initiative, which seeks to enhance the value of OCW for educators.

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 21W.035 Science Writing and New Media: Communicating Science to the Public as it was taught by Jared Berezin in Fall 2016.

This course provides an introduction to writing about science for general readers. Students read works by accomplished science writers. Each assignment focuses on a different popular form, such as news articles, interviews, essays, and short features.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Improve our rhetorical knowledge
  • Develop strategies for succeeding in a variety of communication events (known as “rhetorical situations”)
  • Gain experience in generating and researching article ideas, interviewing scientists, and most importantly, translating complex scientific and technological developments into clear and engaging stories for the public
  • Gain the confidence to participate in and lead discussions that closely examine articles written for the public
  • Ultimately improve our writing, speaking, and rhetorical knowledge that will help us succeed at MIT and beyond
 

Instructor Insights

I encourage everyone to explore the familiar and/or unfamiliar – whatever they find “awesome” and “awesomely confusing” in the world of science and technology.

—Jared Berezin

In the following pages, Jared Berezin describes various aspects of how he taught 21W.035 Science Writing and New Media: Communicating Science to the Public.

 

 

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

None

Requirements Satisfied

  • CI-HW
  • HASS-H

Offered

Every fall and spring semester

The Classroom

  • A carpeted classroom with windows on the left, three sliding chalkboards in the front, and tablet armchairs for students.

    Lecture

    All class sessions were held in a medium-sized classroom with tablet armchairs, connections for laptops, sliding chalkboards, and an overhead projector. The chairs were arranged in a semi-circle at the start of each class.

 

Assessment

Grade Breakdown

The students' grades were based on the following activities:

Instructor Insights on Assessment

Commenting on papers is an important form of teaching in any writing class. One guiding principle for my in-text comments is the effort to remain global, rather than local. Specifically, I attempt to give straightforward feedback that connects well-defined moments in the text to a larger overarching issue(s) discussed in class – elements of the rhetorical situation, attempts at creative explanation, and rhetorical appeals. In addition to critiquing writing that can be more effective, I also make it a point to praise effective moments in student writing, so that students become aware of their burgeoning strengths as translators and communicators of science, while working to improve in other areas.

 

Student Information

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Breakdown by Year

Mostly first-year students

Breakdown by Major

Most students have not yet identified a major.

Typical Student Background

The benefit of having a majority of first-year students is that they have not yet selected a major, so they are not self-tethered to pursue a narrow course of study. Most of them are trying to figure out what they want to major in at MIT, which creates a classroom with wonderful diversity of passion and curiosity.

For every major assignment (except the rhetorical analysis) students are able to select their own article topics. I encourage everyone to explore the familiar and/or unfamiliar – whatever they find “awesome” and “awesomely confusing” in the world of science and technology. First-year students often welcome the opportunity to gain exposure to new fields, while sophomores tend to dig deeper into their main course of study (most of them know what their major will be), though some explore interests that they would otherwise not delve into in their academic career at MIT. This exploration is evident in the variety of article topics, which makes the articles stimulating to read for both the instructor and students in the class.

 

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

3 hours per week
  • Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hours per session; 27 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • During most class sessions, students participated in individual and group “communication experiments” designed to actively engage students in making and analyzing rhetorical choices.
  • Several class sessions included student presentations.
  • During two class sessions, students participated in peer-review workshops.
 

Out of Class

9 hours per week

Students wrote responses to assigned readings and wrote multiple drafts of an investigative research article. They also completed a rhetorical analysis of a news article and other assignments.

 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. Lecture session. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
2 Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
3 Lecture session and due date. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT.
4 Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
5 Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
6 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
7 Lecture session and due date. No session scheduled. Peer-review workshop. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
8 Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture, student presentations, and due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
9 Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
10 Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session and due date. No session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT.
11 Peer-review workshop. No session scheduled. Lecture, student presentations, and due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
12 Lecture session and due date. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
13 Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
14 Student presentations and due date. No session scheduled. Student presentations. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
15 Field trip and due date. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT.
16 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when lecture sessions are held. Lecture session
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when students presentations are held. Student Presentations
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when assignments are due. Assignment due date
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when there is a class field trip. Field trip
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when peer-review workshops are held. Peer-review workshop
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when a library session was held. Library session