What is a Professional Communication Project?
While the content, formatting, requirements, and procedures vary across the STEM disciplines, all professional scientists are expected to share their research questions, methods, expectations, goals, and findings with diverse populations within and beyond the scientific community.
A Professional Communication Project is an assignment that asks students to effectively communicate scientific information within a particular genre, to a clearly defined audience, within a specified mode or modes. Genre refers to the product being generated (e.g. conference proposal); audience refers to the target group (e.g. conference submissions review committee); mode refers to the method used to convey the information (e.g. oral presentation, poster, written proposal, or a combination of several modes).
Scientific communication projects reflect each discipline's common core of conventions, traditions, and knowledge, and present a specialized set of representations, techniques, and ideas that is recognized and understood by members of the scientific discourse-community.
For example, practicing scientists are regularly expected to produce the following products:
- Conference abstracts and presentations
- Scientific posters and participation in poster sessions
- Articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals
- Grant proposals and annual reports
- Project plans
- Public outreach documents (fact sheets, editorials, press releases, web sites, etc)
Teaching assignments like these increase the college's effectiveness with two foundational objectives for undergraduate education:
1) acquisition and retention of content-knowledge,
2) professional development for students.
The Coordinator for the College of Basic Sciences' Communication Studio (BASC CxC) at LSU has assisted faculty members in all five departments (Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology & Geophysics, and Physics & Astronomy) in the development of written, spoken, visual, and technological (multi-modal) projects modeled on the discipline-specific artifacts that professional scientists are expected to produce. Ms. Fava has also begun to work on curricular modification with the professoriate in the LSU School of Coast & Environment. This provides the studio staff with an overview of the varied nature and common aspects inherent to professional communication projects within the STEM disciplines. An explanation of the types of professional artifacts successfully integrated into the curriculum at LSU is provided within this module, as are examples of several specific project assignments taught to LSU science students within the CxC framework.
Additionally, CxC has helped me make even more of a shift than I had been making on my own from traditional, lecture-style instruction towards hands-on, active participation by students. That shift has helped me focus more directly on the key concepts that provide students with a foundation from which to explore the details of specific cases that confront or interest them. I help provide the foundation, while students apply it to myriad specific cases."
– Kyle Harms, LSU Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, on how the CxC model has improved both student learning and his own pedagogical practices.