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Improved retention and recall with a peer reviewed writing assignment

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

"Best" of BED

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.712.1 - 23.712.10

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Paper Authors


Amy Clobes University of Virginia Orcid 16x16

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Amy Clobes is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia. She received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan. Clobes’s research focuses on the intermolecular interactions of cardiac myosin binding protein C with actin and the regulatory effects of nitrosylation on these interactions.

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William H Guilford University of Virginia Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Will Guilford is an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia, and the current Undergraduate program director. He received his B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from St. Francis College in Ft. Wayne, Ind. and his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Arizona. Dr. Guilford did his postdoctoral training in Molecular Biophysics at the University of Vermont under David Warshaw. His research interests include the molecular mechanisms of cell movement and muscle contraction, and effective and efficient means for education.

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The structure of writing assignments has no effect on cognitive skill acquisitionWriting of research papers in undergraduate courses is often used as an active learningexperience meant to improve their written communication skills, force independent study, andpromote the application of newly-acquired knowledge. In application, there is an implicitassumption that writing emphasizes and improves higher-order cognitive skills. We previouslymimicked the professional publishing process by having undergraduate engineering studentswrite, review, and revise “review articles” [1] in order to structure the writing assignment and todevelop in them an appreciation of peer review. This is, however, primarily an exercise inaccumulating and organizing knowledge. Analysis of experimental data has been used as a case-based approach to enforcing higher-order cognitive skills in a graduate course [2]. We sought tosimilarly enforce development of higher-order cognitive skills in undergraduates by havingstudents complete the writing of a primary research article which includes unpublishedlaboratory data. Student teams were randomly assigned the task of either writing a completelynovel review article on a specific, contemporary problem in biomedical engineering, or ofcompleting a primary research article based on laboratory data addressing that same problem. Inthe latter case, students were provided with the detailed methods and the results sections only,and had to research and write the abstract, the introduction, the discussion, and develop onenovel figure. All students engaged in anonymous peer review of each other’s papers and revisedtheir manuscripts before grading. At the end of the course, students were presented with a shortassessment based upon a strict interpretation of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives [3]focused on aspects of the problem that were common to both types of papers. The ability ofstudents to answer questions at higher levels of the cognitive domain was analyzed using binarylogistic regression with paper type (review or primary) as a primary factor and midterm examscores as a covariate factor. The data show that midterm exam scores were significant predictorsof cognitive level up to and including analysis. In contrast, paper type had no consistentpredictive ability. Significant exceptions were found only when one paper type more than theother forced students into immersive study of specific experimental methods. These data suggestthat like graduate students, undergraduate students may benefit from analysis of raw laboratorydata, even in the context of a large lecture course.[1] W. H. Guilford, “Teaching peer review and the process of scientific writing,” Adv.Physiol Educ., vol. 25, no. 1–4, pp. 167–175, Dec. 2001.[2] W. H. Guilford, “Experimental case studies to engage higher cognitive skills,” Advan. Physiol. Edu., vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 358–359, Dec. 2009.[3] B. S. Bloom, M. D. Englehart, E. J. Furst, W. H. Hill, and D. R. Krathwohl, A taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals, by a committee of college and university examiners., vol. Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: Longman Group, 1956.

Clobes, A., & Guilford, W. H. (2013, June), Improved retention and recall with a peer reviewed writing assignment Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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