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How Engineering Students Learn To Write: The Second Year Of The Engineering Writing Initiative At The University Of Texas At Tyler

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Writing and Communication II

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.694.1 - 11.694.14



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Paper Authors


Luke Niiler

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LUKE NIILER is an Associate Professor of English in the Department of Languages and Literature at the University of Texas at Tyler. He received his BA degree from Gettysburg College and his MA and Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

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David Beams University of Texas-Tyler

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DAVID M. BEAMS is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas at Tyler. He received his BS and MS degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in and the Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has had over 16 years of industrial experience in addition to his 8 years with UT-Tyler. He is a licensed professional engineer in Wisconsin and Texas and holds or shares four patents.

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

How Engineering Students Learn to Write: the Second Year of the Engineering Writing Initiative at the University of Texas at Tyler


The Departments of Electrical Engineering and English of the University of Texas at Tyler are in the second year of a four-year longitudinal study investigating how engineering students learn to write. The Engineering Writing Initiative (EWI) seeks answers to the following questions:

• What are engineering students’ attitudes, practices and skills with regard to writing, and how do those attitudes, practices and skills develop over time? • Does writing in engineering courses help students become more involved with those courses and understand and apply the ideas of those courses? • How can we incorporate we learn about students’ attitudes, practices and skills in order to improve our instructional practice with regard to writing?

EWI is using multiple data-gathering methods (semi-annual writing prompts, individual interviews with students, written surveys of students, and student writing samples gathered in portfolios). It employs several assessment strategies (quantitative analyses of student writing samples, quantitative analyses of written surveys, and qualitative analyses of interview transcripts).

This paper is the second in a series of four planned EWI reports to ASEE. While last year’s paper articulated a baseline set of data with regard to student attitudes, practices and skills, this year’s report will include data demonstrating what students have learned in addition to preliminary considerations of how this study can begin to affect instructional practice in UT- Tyler Engineering courses.


With some estimates suggesting that “as much as 80% of an engineer’s work time is spent on communicating,”1 significant attention has been given recently to the place of writing instruction in engineering courses. For example, in multiple publications Norback et al 2,3,4,5 have developed powerful links between classroom and industry to identify relevant writing skills and transfer them into classroom practice. Bonk, Imhoff and Cheng 6 describe a collaborative effort between a Civil and Environmental Engineering program and a Business and Technical Writing program that has resulted in the incremental integration of writing skills into engineering curricula. Ostheimer and White have developed a sophisticated assessment mechanism that, among other outcomes, “generates important program information for the faculty about the relative success of their students in reaching goals that the faculty has determined to be important.” 7 And in a pithy assessment of the value of clear written communication for the engineer, Forsyth (2004) notes that “the effort involved” in careful drafting “will pay dividends.” 8 The authors of this study understand the value of writing within engineering practice. The University of Texas at Tyler founded its School of Engineering (now the College of Engineering and Computer Science) in

Niiler, L., & Beams, D. (2006, June), How Engineering Students Learn To Write: The Second Year Of The Engineering Writing Initiative At The University Of Texas At Tyler Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--882

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015