This page is tailored toward introductory STEM instructors considering running this experiment in their courses. We answer common questions below about what it actually takes to run the experiment and what we think you, and your students, will get out of it. Please reach out to the Contacts listed on the side for any questions about this project.


Intro to the Project (7 mins)


Students – Paid Research Opportunity! (info here)


Instructors – What You Need to Know (1 page)


Instructors – Sign up here!


Please email seismic.admin@umich.edu for access to the Info Session video (45 mins)



Project Lead: Vanessa Woods



Research Coordinator: Maggie Safronova



Co-Lead: Linda Adler-Kassner


What is the Access to Practice (AtP) Project?

Faculty in this project are designing peer-reviewed, low-stakes writing assignments for students to improve their learning in STEM introductory courses. The process of writing, reviewing, and revising using highly-structured prompts has been shown to contribute to improvements in course performance, as well as increased metacognition. Assignments focus either on important disciplinary concepts, or conventions of scientific writing. The process of writing, providing feedback, and revising improves students’ understandings of concepts and conventions. It also helps them develop metacognitive awareness, i.e., an understanding of what they are doing and how and why they are doing it. Further, these write-to learn-assignments with peer feedback are scalable to large courses, offering realistic ways to increase student success in large introductory STEM courses. These assignments also provide valuable feedback to instructors on how students are engaging with the material, allowing for formative assessments that can be used to tailor teaching and learning in the course. The write-review-revise process is conducted using an electronic platform that provides valuable feedback to instructors about how students are engaging the material, enabling them to adapt their instruction to meet students’ needs. Additionally, since the process is conducted online, it is scalable for large courses. To integrate these assignments, this team will need to prepare write-to-learn activities for the classes, implement a pre and post assessment of metacognition and course content, and ensure the assignments are comparable across participating courses.

Common Questions from Instructors

1. What do faculty need to know to participate?

AtP uses peer reviewed writing assignments to increase student’s metacognitive skills, conceptual understanding, and subsequent student success. This intervention involves integrating highly-structured, low-stakes writing assignments and peer review prompts in introductory STEM courses. The process is facilitated via an online platform, which enables instructors to upload prompts and peer review questions and distribute to students via URLs inserted into LMS course pages. Participants are asked to do 2-3 assignments and to use an online platform that can assign peer review tasks to students, and that has access to the student review comments as a text file for possible analysis.

2. What will faculty (or their students) gain?

Design and implementation of writing and peer-review assignments contribute to faculty and student development. Through creating assignments, faculty develop enhanced abilities to articulate and create activities around challenging concepts.

We have preliminary data that suggests by writing and providing feedback, students gain a deeper understanding of challenging concepts and increase subsequent student success in the course.

Because writing and feedback is completed online, the intervention adds little additional work for faculty or teaching assistants.

3. What are the steps involved in this project?

Stage 1: To develop the writing assignments and peer review prompts, instructors, participate in a workshop to

  1. Identify difficult course concepts and/or difficult ways of writing; and
  2. Establish guidelines of how students show their understanding of concepts.
  3. Identify how these concepts/ways of writing are currently assessed (e.g., test item or writing assignment).

Support is provided in a 1.5 hour workshop with UCSB PIs or AtP specialists on local campuses.

Stage 2: Next, instructors implement write-review activities during a course, and pre/post student surveys. The implementation of the assignments can be done with the assistance of teaching assistants if available. The pre/post surveys will be provided to potential collaborators to use in their courses.

Stage 3: Compile data.

4. What are the expected control and treatment groups? Is there flexibility in this if faculty cannot run the project exactly as defined?

There is evidence that these innovations work to improve student learning and as such should not be withheld from any group for the purposes of an experiment. We do not require a control group in this project.

5. How will information be communicated to people who have expressed interest in the project?

Communication will be via email, and we will run the workshops and meetings via Zoom asking that we start at least two weeks before the term starts.