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Board 44: Work in Progress: Integrating Writing into Engineering Labs: Developing Curriculum and Creating a Writing Fellows Program

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Division Poster Session

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Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Raenita A. Fenner Loyola University Maryland

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Dr. Raenita Fenner is an Associate Professor of Engineering in the Department of Engineering at Loyola University Maryland. Her area of expertise is electrical engineering where her research interests are in applied in electromagnetic theory. She received her BSEE from Morgan State University in 2005 and her MSEE and Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2007 and 2011 respectively. She was a Clare Luce Boothe professor from 2011-2016. She has taught many engineering courses including, but not limited to, Linear Circuit Laboratory, Electronics Laboratory, Electromagnetics, Communication Theory, and Signals and Systems. Dr. Fenner is an accomplished researcher and has published several journal articles and conference papers. She has also served as a reviewer for the IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques and IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation. She has served as the faculty mentor for the Loyola section of the Society of Women Engineers and the Women in Engineering affiliate of the Baltimore IEEE.

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Peggy O'Neill Loyola University Maryland

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Peggy O'Neill, PhD, a professor of writing and Associate Dean of Humanities at Loyola University Maryland. Her primary research is in writing pedagogy and assessment, and she has taught a wide variety of writing courses including first year composition, professional writing, rhetoric, and style.

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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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