June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
Educational Research and Methods
Integrating Writing into Engineering Labs: Developing Curriculum and Creating a Writing Fellows Program
Communication competency is critical for practicing engineers. Engineering organizations have recognized that to succeed in the global economy, engineering education needs to go beyond technical and problem-solving to embrace so-called “soft” skills such as writing and communication. Research demonstrates that learning to write and communicate in engineering is linked to learning to think like an engineer and to developing a professional identity as an engineer. Although effective communication is widely acknowledged as a significant learning outcome of engineering programs, evidence suggests that engineering programs and universities often fall short of preparing students for the expectations of industry managers and leaders so that engineering firms may need to provide post-hiring training.
In the Engineering Department at Loyola University Maryland, required laboratory courses are the main sites for teaching technical writing. Current engineering faculty, however, do not have the preparation to teach writing. In addition, the lab curricula, which rely on prescriptive lab experiments, short-circuits the problem-solving and thinking that is integral to critical writing development in engineering. Finally, beyond their instructors, students do not have access to instructional support to address their writing needs within the specific context of the engineering curriculum. The Writing Center, for example, does not have tutors prepared to support the particular needs of engineering students, and the tutoring service offered by the academic services does not provide discipline-specific training for tutors.
To improve technical writing instruction in laboratory courses a multidisciplinary team between professors in the Writing Department and Department of Engineering at Loyola University Maryland (1) developed a curricular framework that integrates best practices of teaching technical writing used in tandem with existing engineering laboratory courses and (2) trained a set of engineering students to be Engineering Writing Fellows, undergraduate engineering students who tutored undergraduate Engineering students in their technical writing assignments. This paper will share the student and instructor opinions of these initiatives employed in the Linear Circuits Analysis Laboratory course in the Department of Engineering at Loyola University Maryland. Analysis of the initiatives was conducted via student survey and comparison of student writing pre and post-Engineering Writing Fellows tutoring. Results show students highly regarded the input of the Engineering Writing Fellows and students who met with the Engineering Writing Fellows at least once were likely to meet with the Engineering Writing Fellows additional times. Students also thought that the curricular framework was the most useful classroom strategy used to improve their technical writing.
This work was sponsored by the Engineering Information Foundation.
Fenner, R. A., & O'Neill, P. (2019, June), Board 44: Work in Progress: Integrating Writing into Engineering Labs: Developing Curriculum and Creating a Writing Fellows Program Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32351
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