Published on June 5, 2015
Biological Sciences Professor Miriam Golomb sees Writing Intensive (WI) courses as a chance for students to re-examine concepts with a deeper understanding.
“Students use writing to think—to place what they’re learning in the context of their lives and chosen careers,” Golomb says. “They use it to clarify difficult concepts and to communicate with scientists and non-scientists.”
Golomb’s work as WI instructor earned her the 2015 Win Horner Award for Innovative Writing Intensive Teaching. MU’s Campus Writing Program created the award in 2013 to honor Horner, who is nationally recognized as a pioneer in writing across the curriculum.
“It is so inspiring to win an award dedicated to Professor Win Horner, who is a hero of mine,” Golomb says. “She was a big influence on all of us early adopters of Writing Intensive methods.”
The award honors faculty who start a new WI course or take a new direction with their WI teaching. Golomb teaching two WI courses: Genetics and Society and an online Human Microbiome course.
In 2013, Golomb received a Faculty Development Award from the Campus Writing Program to develop the Human Microbiome course, which became the first online WI course at MU. The assignments for the course are interactive and are chosen to make students aware of current controversies and encourage rigorous and critical thinking.
Golomb’s priorities for WI course include enabling students to clarify their thinking about key scientific concepts, inspiring curiosity about basic scientific questions and current advances, encouraging students to apply evidence, logic and critical thinking to scientific, medical and social controversies and helping students engage the world through difficult dialogues.
In nominating Golomb for this award, a colleague in the department of biological sciences pointed to the syllabus for Human Microbiome which states that a student “is expected to bring creativity and original insights to assignments.” The nominator adds “I’m not sure how many STEM course could incorporate that statement into their syllabi. We might all expect our students to use critical thinking to solve some real tough problems, but we generally know what the “right answer” is and are looking to see if the students figure it out.”
In another nomination letter, Golomb is called “a master of assignment design. She nurtures critical thinking on multiple levels and practices what she preaches, constantly seeking and discovering new and better ways to use writing as a tool to think about science.”
One of Golomb’s students, in a nomination letter, says “writing about scientific topics is something that I expected to learn throughout my academic career, but thanks to Dr. Golomb, I now enjoy learning and writing about science.”
Amy Lannin, director of the Campus Writing Program, says that Golomb epitomizes good teaching.
“She approaches this work thinking about how she has learned and then makes decisions to carefully create the environment in which her students can effectively learn,” Lannin says. “With an attitude of humility and commitment to students, she continues to learn, to question and to seek better ways of teaching.”
“Writing Intensive courses are an essential part of education” Golomb says. “They develop critical, higher-order thinking and a more integrative view of their coursework.”