Asee peer logo

Improving the Writing of Engineering Students through Portfolios

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Creating and Maintaining Effective Communication Learning in the Curriculum

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.722.1 - 23.722.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Mark W. Milke P.E. University of Canterbury Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Mark Milke has been with the Dept. of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering since 1991. He has a from B.S. in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College, a M.S. of Sanitary Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. Since 2008 he has been the chair for his department's curriculum committee, overseeing a number of changes to keep pace with Washington Accord requirements. The Portfolio approach to improving writing arose from efforts at curriculum improvement demanded by employers.

visit author page


Creon Upton Unaffiliated

visit author page

Dr. Creon Upton has a Ph.D in English from the University of Canterbury. He has taught English language and literature at Thammasat and Bangkok Universities in Thailand, and at the Universities of Waikato and Canterbury in Aotearoa New Zealand. He freelances as a writer, editor and writing consultant, and was recently the principal author of a Writing Guide for students in the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering at the University of Canterbury.

visit author page


Glen F Koorey University of Canterbury Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Glen Koorey is a senior lecturer in Transportation in the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering at the University of Canterbury. Prior to joining Canterbury in 2004, he worked for ten years as a transportation engineer and traffic researcher for Opus International Consultants.
Dr. Koorey’s wide-ranging experience includes considerable research and consulting work on road safety modelling, speed management, sustainable transport planning, crash analysis, and the design and operation of rural two-lane highways. At Canterbury, he has taught professional design project courses since 2006. He has also delivered oral and written presentation skills to students for many years.

visit author page

author page

Aisling Dominique O'Sullivan Ph. D. University of Canterbury

author page

Keith Comer Chalmers University of Technology

Download Paper |


Improving the writing of engineering students through portfoliosMark Milke, Creon Upton, Aisling O’Sullivan, Glen KooreyDepartment of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800,Christchurch 8140, New Zealand.Email contact: Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury, New Zealand,has trialled the development and assessment of student writing through a portfolio approach. Ratherthan rely on a communications course, students are asked to improve their writing skills using workfrom their professional courses. Students must take samples of work from courses and refine themprior to submission as a portfolio item. Students are supported with written guidance, workshops, andone-on-one tuition. The motivation for this innovative approach is described along with thedevelopment of the programme, the involvement of practicing engineers, and trial results. The trialhas demonstrated that progress is more successful when student work is tied to professional reportpractices and when practicing engineers become involved in delivering the message. Even afterintensive workshops and advice, only 8 out of 43 portfolios were judged to have met professionalexpectations. One key finding of the investigation to date is that students need more advice andpractice at error checking. The Department has the full support of employers to keep the pass barhigh and to fail students who do not demonstrate competence with their standards. Results of the2012 portfolios (submitted in October 2012) will be provided at the conference and in the paper.

Milke, M. W., & Upton, C., & Koorey, G. F., & O'Sullivan, A. D., & Comer, K. (2013, June), Improving the Writing of Engineering Students through Portfolios Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19736

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: © 2013 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