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Implementation of Peer Review to Enhance Written and Visual Communication Learning in Bioengineering Capstone Reports

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Development of Technical and Soft Skills in BME

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Paper Authors


Dianne Grayce Hendricks University of Washington

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Dr. Dianne G. Hendricks is a Lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, where she leads the Bioengineering Outreach Initiative, Bioengineering Undergraduate Honors Program, and Bioengineering Summer Camp in Global Health. She holds a PhD in Genetics from Duke University, and BS in Molecular Biology and BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Hendricks’ teaching activities at the University of Washington include introductory and honors courses in bioengineering, tissue and protein engineering lab courses, bioengineering ethics, leadership, and bioengineering capstone writing and research/design courses. She is committed to enhancing diversity and inclusivity in engineering, and creating opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in K-12 educational outreach. Dr. Hendricks has over a decade of experience leading educational outreach and summer camp programs at both Duke University and the University of Washington.

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Alyssa Catherine Taylor University of Washington

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Alyssa C. Taylor is a lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. She received a B.S. in biological systems engineering at the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia. Taylor’s teaching activities are focused on developing and teaching core introductory courses and technical labs for bioengineering undergraduates, as well as coordinating the capstone design sequence for the BIOE Department at the University of Washington. Taylor currently pursues educational research and continuous improvement activities, with the ultimate goal of optimizing bioengineering curriculum design and student learning outcomes.

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Stephanie Pulford University of California, Davis Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Stephanie Pulford is the Associate Director, Instructional R&D of UC Davis' Center for Educational Effectiveness. Dr. Pulford’s professional background in engineering includes a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, an M.S. in Engineering Mechanics, and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering as well as industry experience as an aircraft engineer. Her research and professional interests include faculty development, innovations in engineering communication education, engineering student learning motivation, narrative structure in technical communication, and the improvisatory skills of educators.

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Implementation of Peer Review to Enhance Written and Visual Communication Learning in Bioengineering Capstone Reports

In addition to technical skill development, engineering undergraduate curricula must also foster development of effective communication skills. The capstone report often plays an instrumental role in this development, as it comprises both the final assessment of student communication performance and it is the most significant opportunity for active learning of in-discipline communication skills. Peer review has been proposed as an ideal means to provide students with much-needed formative feedback. In addition, peer review has the potential to increase student interpersonal communication skills and metacognition, provided that the review activity is structured to encourage constructive contributions and reflection.

In this paper, we build on our previous work-in-progress describing the implementation of a peer review strategy integrated throughout the year-long capstone experience that allows students to obtain significant, formative feedback and build transferable communication skills and insights.

The students completed a four-part workshop series of scaffolded communication critique, small-group formative peer review, and reflection. First, students were guided to collaborate as a class to generate rubric for sections of the capstone report, as well as guidelines for constructive and effective peer feedback. In the next class sessions, students used these codes to provide feedback in small groups and then reconvened to share successful techniques as a class. When students submitted their revised draft, they included a cover letter describing their reflection on peer feedback and the changes they made or plans for future improvement due to peer review.

The novelty of our specific approach to peer review lies in the combination of three qualities: 1. The degree of student contribution to setting standards for both effective writing and effective critique. This gives students ownership and a stake in these standards, as well as providing scaffolding for critical thought about formal and casual professional communication. 2. The degree of scaffolding for student critique. A criticism of peer review is that student reviewers can be unconstructive. Our approach includes a structure to help students stay focused and provide helpful critiques. 3. The degree of reflection required of students toward learning, retaining, and transferring their in-workshop learning.

Our approach was evaluated by student surveys including both quantitative and qualitative assessment, and instructor analysis of cover letters describing the impact of peer review. Students reported that 1) discussing what makes good Introduction and Methods sections helped clarify their thoughts and/or approach, 2) obtaining feedback helped or will help them improve their drafts, and 3) providing feedback to others helped students clarify their own thoughts/approach to writing. Results also indicate that peer review increased student preparedness and confidence in their ability to write an effective report. Students reported that hearing multiple points of view in a low-stakes environment was very helpful.

By engaging bioengineering students in this way, we enrich their learning experience by providing tools they can use toward capstone report performance, as well as communication, self-regulation, and reflection skills that can be transferred toward future professional challenges.

Hendricks, D. G., & Taylor, A. C., & Pulford, S. (2017, June), Implementation of Peer Review to Enhance Written and Visual Communication Learning in Bioengineering Capstone Reports Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28477

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