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Q+W = a well-rounded student

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at dickinsonh@beloit.edu or 608-363-2849

People generally identify themselves as a numbers person or a word person, but English Professor Chuck Lewis thinks it’s important to be both.

With the objective of helping faculty members learn how to incorporate quantitative reasoning into their classes, Lewis led a workshop in March called “Q + W = Us: Helping Students Make Arguments with Numbers.”

“We have lots of faculty who say ‘I’m a numbers person. I don’t do the writing thing,’ and a lot of faculty who say ‘I’m okay with the writing. I just don’t mess with the numbers,’” Lewis says. “I want to put them in a room and find out what they have in common and how some of the numbers people might have some ideas, resources or strategies that could be useful for a writing person and vice versa.”

The quantitative reasoning requirement was implemented into the curriculum beginning in the fall 2011 semester after faculty at Beloit, including Lewis, had a couple meetings with Carleton College faculty to learn more about its quantitative reasoning model.

“Now we’re trying to develop more opportunities in the curriculum for students to meet that requirement,” Lewis says.

Thus, the workshop was about figuring how the “Q” and the “W” belong in the same class or assignment. Lewis hoped workshop participants would come away with specific ideas for how to design assignments or add something to an assignment they didn’t previously think was useful.  

Though quantitative reasoning and writing skills are distinct skill sets, he believes there is room for overlap and for some integration in ways that faculty needs to explore. That said, Lewis of course recognizes it’s not always possible to integrate the “Q” and the “W.” For instance, an English professor shouldn’t try to add a quantitative reasoning element into a Shakespeare class.

Finally, Lewis asserts that no matter what career path a student chooses to take after Beloit, it’s important for them to be comfortable with numbers and writing.

“Just to be functional as citizens and as readers, writers, and critical thinkers, everyone needs a certain degree of ability to think about numbers without being a numbers person,” he says.

SOURCE: Chuck Lewis is an English professor and director of the writing program at Beloit College who teaches writing seminars, creative writing and literature. His teaching and research background also includes literary studies, journalism and media studies. Lewis enjoys focusing on interdisciplinary connections among these and other areas, as is reflected in his book on literature and economics, A Coincidence of Wants: The Novel and Neoclassical Economics (Garland, 2000). Other current interests include historiographic metafiction, racial passing in the American novel, and the theory and practice of writing across the curriculum in the context of the liberal arts college. Lewis can serve as a media resource on topics related to his teaching and research interests.