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Implementing Peer-Reviews in Civil Engineering Laboratories

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

First-Year Activities and Peer Review Strategies in Civil Engineering

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.820.1 - 22.820.15



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Paper Authors


Katherine Kuder Seattle University

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Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Seattle University, specializing in mechanics, structural engineering and cement-based materials.

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Nirmala Gnanapragasam Seattle University

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Nirmala Gnanapragasam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Seattle University and is the design coordinator of the senior capstone program for the department. She is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Washington. Her interests include the professional practice of geotechnical engineering and engineering education research.

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Implementing Peer-Reviews in Civil Engineering LaboratoriesABET 2009-10 criterion 3 requires that all engineering graduates demonstrate an ability tocommunicate effectively at the time of graduation (criterion g of a-k outcomes). Technicalcommunication is a critical skill for Civil engineering students to achieve. However,incorporating technical writing in many engineering courses is difficult. Laboratory reportsprovide an excellent opportunity for teaching technical writing skills, requiring students topresent graphical information and prepare technical reports. Unfortunately, students oftenprepare their reports at the last minute, rather than devoting the time necessary to compose andedit their writing. When the graded report is returned, their focus has likely shifted to the nextassignment and they may not even reflect on the feedback received.Peer-reviews have been used as a tool to improve student writing in laboratory courses. Theprimary benefits of these reviews are two-fold: (1) students are required to think moreholistically about their own writing and the writing process and (2) students must revise theirreports. These reviews have been implemented in two Civil Engineering laboratory classes:Mechanics of Materials and Soil Mechanics. Students prepared preliminary drafts of their reportsand then exchanged reports with classmates for review. Review feedback from their classmatewas then used in the preparation of the final report. Final reports were submitted to the instructorfor grading.Pre- and post- surveys were administered to the students to assess the usefulness of the peerreview process. Faculty also reviewed rough drafts, peer reviews, and final drafts to track studentperformance. Based on these data, improvements to the structure of the peer-review process weremade. Since the peer review process adds intermediate due dates, careful management of thecourse schedule was necessary. To help students develop editing skills, checklists were providedthat highlight common errors and to guide the review process. It was also helpful to assign aportion of the final grade to the student participation in the peer review process, including thequality of their rough draft, the thoughtfulness of their review, and how the reviews wereincorporated into their final submissions. Overall, the results are positive. Students are satisfiedwith the process and faculty see improvements in student writing.

Kuder, K., & Gnanapragasam, N. (2011, June), Implementing Peer-Reviews in Civil Engineering Laboratories Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18101

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