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Physical & Life Sciences


Written and Oral Communication:

Of the five required learning outcomes for this category, the learning outcome that requires students to “analyze and interpret data and present it in an effective laboratory or fieldwork report” can be met through lab reports, poster sessions, analytic essays, and class presentations. 

Learning outcomes and the assignments/activities that demonstrate how the class will meet those outcomes should be included in the course syllabus (link to syllabus template). The Writing Across the Curriculum Program and the Reading/Writing Center can provide consultation and sample assignments. John Bean’s Engaging Ideas offers examples of various writing assignments that might be useful. For a complimentary copy (supplies limited), contact Dennis Paoli,  


Critical Reading and Research:

The learning outcome for this category that requires students to “gather, analyze and interpret data and present it in an effective laboratory or fieldwork report” can be met through effective database searching and source evaluation. The learning outcome for this category that requires students to “identify and apply research ethics and unbiased assessment in gathering and
reporting scientific data” can be met through source evaluation and instruction on academic integrity.


The Library can support these outcomes through the following offerings:

  1. Research sessions focused on: finding and evaluating information sources specific to Life and Physical Sciences; knowing and using the vocabulary, concepts and theoretical framework of the discipline to identify and evaluate relevant contextual sources and new research findings; selecting specialized databases, catalogs and credible Web-based sites.
  2. Research guides for Biology, Chemistry, Geography and Environmental Sciences, and Physics and Astronomy can be integrated into course curricula to direct students to relevant information resources.
  3. Academic Integrity tutorials on citation, plagiarism and ethical uses of information sources which are accessible to faculty and students on the Libraries' Information Literacy Commons site.


Critical Thinking

The Common Core learning outcome for critical thinking, that students should be able to “evaluate evidence and arguments critically or analytically,” can be met through assignments and activities that also meet the Written and Oral Communication learning outcomes and the Research and Information Literacy outcomes.

Academic activities that require students to perform research also require that students “evaluate evidence” in evaluating the sources they find and that they assess “critically” the articles and data those sources provide. So do writing assignments and oral presentations, expository or argumentative.  


The assignments and activities below meet more than one of the common learning outcomes:

(A course can meet several of the Common Core required learning outcomes by using these assignments/activities.)

Written and Oral Communication (WO),
Critical Thinking (CT),
Research and Information Literacy (RIL).


2 required outcomes:

  • Annotated bibliography (CT/RIL)
  • Analytic essay (WO/CT)
  • Compare/contrast essay (WO/CT)
  • Expository essay (WO/CT)
  • Summary essay (WO/CT)
  • Lab report (WO/CT)
  • Debating (WO/CT)

The following assignments and activities can meet at least two learning outcomes if students are directed to “evaluate evidence and arguments critically or analytically” in the process:

  • Personal essay (WO/CT)
  • Letter writing (WO/CT)
  • Online discussion (WO/CT)
  • Panel discussion (WO/CT)
  • Speeches (WO/CT)
  • Role playing (WO/CT).

3 (all) required outcomes:

  • Documented research paper, Bibliographic essay (literature review), Book report/review
  • Any of the assignments and activities in “2 required outcomes,” except the Annotated bibliography, can meet all three required learning outcomes if they include academic research (RIL), i.e. “gathering, interpreting, and assessing information from a variety of sources and points of view.”