June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.709.1 - 13.709.9
Implementing Informal Writing Assignments and a Written Feedback and Revision Loop to Enhance Learning in Engineering Courses Abstract
Several studies have shown that two methods enhance student learning in courses requiring written assignments. The first, informal writing, is an exercise that encourages students to “think on paper” (or perhaps more often, “think on a screen”). Fundamental to this exercise is learning to record observations, interpret data, and document the solutions to problems. The second method requires that students receive feedback on formal assignments they have submitted. The student is then required to revise the assignment using this feedback and then resubmit for grading. While both of these methods are well proven enhancements to the leaning process, they have historically been shunned by engineering faculty.
At our university, a campus-wide program for integrating communication requirements into various curricula has had success in overcoming faculty and student resistance to these and other teaching methods not typically found in the engineering disciplines. The Communication Across the Curriculum (CxC) Program uses workshops, Summer Faculty Institutes, discipline-specific communication studios, and an online searchable database to assist faculty in the development and implementation of innovative assignments to build students’ communication skills. Incorporating these two learning techniques for written assignments was found to be most challenging in Capstone and laboratory courses; therefore, examples of successful implementation in each are presented. Workload impact was found to be minimal when the faculty member had obtained tools at a CxC workshop or institute and also took advantage of the Engineering Communication Studio resources. Student acceptance was documented via course-end questionnaires and selected focus groups. Both assessment approaches have yielded consistently positive student responses. Other assessment methods are in development, but early indicators are encouraging.
Introduction. In most composition classrooms, informal writing techniques and revision strategies have long been accepted as effective for improving student writing. Broadly, informal writing is risk-free (not graded and does not follow specific conventions) writing that is designed to aid the student thinking and learning process. Informal writing takes many forms: listing, freewriting, journaling, and even doodling. Ultimately, informal writing is a place where the writing process begins. When informal writing is applied to a larger assignment, it may also be referred to as generative writing or prewriting since its goal is to generate ideas for and approaches to a larger project. Conversely, formal writing is writing that must follow conventional forms and is usually graded for grammar, form, and correctness. It is the product of a writing process.
As the teaching of writing has expanded beyond English departments, settled strategies for the teaching of writing have slowly made their way into classes across the curriculum. Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) programs owe much to James Britton’s The Development of Writing Abilities1, in which he not only coined the phrase “Writing across the Curriculum” but also discussed the role informal writing should take in the teaching of writing Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process2 expanded on Britton’s work, focusing on the need to teach the entire writing process, including revision and editing techniques.
Hull, W., & Waggenspack, W., & Bowles, L. B., & Farrell, J., & Bowles, D. (2008, June), Implementing Informal Writing Assignments And A Feedback And Revision Loop To Enhance Learning In Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3398
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