Monday, November 13, 2006

Promoting Improved Undergraduate Student Writing Skills Through Web-Based Student Extension Publications on Soil Nutrient Management.

P.P. Motavalli, Dept. of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences, Univ.of Missouri, 302 ABNR Bldg, Columbia, MO 65211, M.D. Patton, Campus Writing Program, Univ. of Missouri, Conley House, Columbia, MO 65211, and R.J. Miles, Univ of Missouri, Dept of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences, 302 ABNR Bldg, Columbia, MO 65211.

Writing competency is an important job skill for most professions. However, many undergraduate students in agricultural and natural resource disciplines, such as soil science, have few opportunities to write for an audience besides their instructor, and, therefore, lack experience in writing for diverse audiences. This presentation will summarize survey information regarding the perceptions towards and experience in writing of soil science undergraduate students at the University of Missouri. In addition, an experiment was conducted annually from 2003 to 2006 to determine the impact of having upper class undergraduate students in the soil fertility course at the University of Missouri, produce a web-based publication on soil nutrient management entitled “Nutrient News”. The target extension audience for the publication was undergraduate students in the introductory soils course who then evaluated the publication electronically using WebCT, a web-based teaching tool. The evaluation results on each student’s writing in the publication were then returned to the original author in order for them to have feedback from their student extension audience. Examples of student comments and survey results regarding the impact of this experiment will be presented. Development of this form of communication among undergraduate students in soil science or other natural resource-based disciplines may facilitate improved writing skills and learning and stimulate new undergraduate student interest in these disciplines.