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Enhancement Of Written Communication On Structural Systems Using Calibrated Peer Review

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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

Structural Education Methods

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.565.1 - 14.565.18

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Paper Authors


Anne Nichols Texas A&M University

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Dr. Nichols is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Texas A&M University. She teaches
structural analysis, design, and planning at the undergraduate and graduate level. She is a civil
engineer with research interests in the structural mechanics and modeling of masonry and cement

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

Enhancement of Written Communication on Structural Systems Using Calibrated Peer Review


Calibrated Peer Review (CPR ) is a web-based software tool for incorporating writing assignments in courses that are not typically writing intensive. The goal is for students to write and critique the work of their peers on technical topics by learning to calibrate writing samples and anonymously reviewing a subset of their classmates writing assignments, freeing the instructor from the time consuming task of grading every student’s work.

This tool was used for two terms in a required architectural structural systems course in the Master of Architecture graduate program at Texas A&M University. The intended student learning outcomes were improved written communication of structural knowledge on assessments, particularly essay exam questions, and in a term report on an architectural building case study conducted by a team. The tool was not intended to impart content, although that did occur, but to give the students directed practice in self-assessing and assessing the effectiveness of the written communication of their peers using a narrowly focused set of criteria for quality and quantity. In addition, the students were required to edit their reviewed texts based on the peer review comments and complete another round of peer reviews.

This paper will present the analysis of the scored data for the CPR assignments, which includes the student calibration competency, self and peer reviewing competency. The correlation of the student competencies to their performance on written exam questions and quality of the term reports will be quantified. The effectiveness of the tool will be evaluated with respect to the performance of prior classes having used the tool on a trial basis and prior classes that did not use the tool.


Graduates of accredited programs of Architecture by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB)1 are expected to be able to demonstrate writing and speaking skills, design skills, technical documentation skills, and the understanding and appropriate application of structural and environmental systems technology, amongst other performance criteria. Design students focus most of their effort on graphical presentation skills which are regularly reviewed and critiqued, with cursory attention paid to formal writing and speaking skills, which are not. They have no formal technical writing training, yet, professional architects are expected to prepare formal proposals and reports, and communicate with consulting engineers.

In the only required course on structural systems and planning in one such program, two learning objectives identify the relationship of the course subject matter to the effective communication and demonstration of the understanding of structural systems and behavior required for good planning:

Nichols, A. (2009, June), Enhancement Of Written Communication On Structural Systems Using Calibrated Peer Review Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

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