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Effect Of Type Of Writing Instruction On Quality Of Student Writing

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

New Learning Paradigms I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.515.1 - 14.515.9



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Paper Authors

author page

Philip Parker University of Wisconsin, Platteville

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Effect of Type of Writing Instruction on Quality of Student Writing

Introduction At the University of Wisconsin-Platteville (UWP), the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) curriculum provides writing instruction to students via two freshman composition courses and by requiring multiple writing assignments in virtually every CEE course. Many CEE courses provide students with some type of writing guidelines at the start of the semester, and nearly all of the faculty provide written feedback to the students. This instructional model is very time intensive for the CEE faculty members, given the large grading load. (Teaching assistants are not employed at UWP, a primarily-undergraduate institution.) Faculty have somewhat grudgingly born the load by assuming that this method was helping students write more effectively. However, recent survey results from employers of co-op students have not been favorable with regards to student writing ability. Moreover, one of the best indicators of student writing ability at UWP is their performance on their final Senior Design reports. These are almost uniformly poorly written, despite the large amount of writing they have completed and the extensive feedback they have obtained prior to enrolling in Senior Design. Thus, the department is realizing that the current model (provide guidelines and a large amount of practice) is not working. The study described in this paper compares an innovative writing instructional method (the “test method”) to a more traditional method (the “control method”). The test method consisted of weekly lecture time devoted to discussing handouts on various writing competencies paired with targeted writing assignments. The control method is typical of the method used by the CEE faculty at University X. Both methods provided students with regular written feedback on their work. The objective of this study is to determine whether students taught using the test method performed better on a final writing assignment than students taught using the control method. As such, this paper helps to address a gap in the engineering writing education literature, in that few studies have investigated the effect of various methods in an experimental fashion. One exception is the work of Jensen and Fisher,(1) who showed that the use of student peer review was found to be positively correlated with an improvement in student writing proficiency. The findings were based on a comparison of scores on a writing assignment at the beginning of the semester and a writing assignment at the end of the semester for a control section and a test section. Background The test method was guided by advice gleaned from the technical writing and engineering writing instruction literature. Two very practical papers that were of particular help were those written by Evans(2) and Berthouex.(3) These papers cite the necessity of providing students with plenty of writing practice; providing students with writing guidelines; allowing students to critique each other’s work; providing thorough feedback; etc.

Parker, P. (2009, June), Effect Of Type Of Writing Instruction On Quality Of Student Writing Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5665

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