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Improving Writing In Civil And Environmental Engineering Courses Using Claqwa, An Online Tool For Writing Improvement

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Student Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.705.1 - 15.705.13



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Paper Authors

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Maya Trotz University of South Florida


Ken Thomas University of South Florida

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Ken D. Thomas is currently at PhD Candidate and teaching assistant at US⁆s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Ken obtained BSc Chemical and Process Engineering as well as MSc Environmental Engineering from UWI, St. Augustine. His current research interest lies in linking water quality, management and ecotourism activities in the Caribbean as well as engineering education.

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Jeffrey Cunningham University of South Florida

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Qiong Zhang University of South Florida

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Improving writing in civil and environmental engineering courses using CLAQWA, an online tool for writing improvement Abstract A required ABET student outcome of engineering programs is “communication” which, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers BOK means that a student can “Plan, compose, and integrate the verbal, written, virtual, and graphical communication of a project to technical and non-technical audiences.” The Civil and Environmental Engineering program at the University of South Florida, addresses this outcome over a student’s undergraduate career, however, tools for student improvement are typically not directly linked with the course syllabus and the actual assessment of skills. The Cognitive Level and Quality Writing Assessment (CLAQWA) instrument is a computer based assessment and feedback tool designed to improve the writing skills and raise cognitive levels necessary for a given writing assignment. It also allows faculty to assess, diagnose and grade a writing assignment and student peers to provide feedback to each other. CLAQWA provides guided, interactive examples for self instruction on writing improvement and is flexibly designed to emphasize the particular instructor’s grading priorities.

CLAQWA was integrated into an upper level Environmental Engineering Systems course where it was used for a student term paper in both Fall 2008, the pilot, and Spring 2009. Working in groups of three (in Fall 2008 - 17 groups; Spring 2009 – 13 groups), students selected a topic relevant to environmental engineering and worked closely with the two course instructors in outlining the paper’s theme. A writing teaching assistant familiar with CLAQWA was assigned to the class and specially scheduled training sessions were provided to train students on the use of CLAQWA. Each group’s first paper draft received at least three peer reviews, all of which were compared for the purposes of this paper to determine any common issues amongst the class. The faculty and teaching assistant compared their own grading using CLAQWA in an effort to calibrate the process for the grading of the final term paper. For the Spring 2009 offering of the class the entire CLAQWA process was undertaken without the online component. This was done to determine whether the tool can be successful by use of traditional teaching techniques i.e. as a paper based tool. Student surveys were used to gain feedback on whether students felt CLAQWA was useful and helped them to improve their writing skills. CLAQWA provides effective tools that actually improve student writing skills and enables data collection to demonstrate this improvement.

Introduction According to Flateby and Fehr1, “the inability to communicate effectively in writing seems to be a common deficiency amongst engineers. One can debate over the root cause of this deficiency, but most people agree that strengthening communication skills will increase the effectiveness of the engineer.” To address this issue amongst engineering graduates, ABET now requires BS graduates to be able to effectively communicate their ideas verbally and through writing1. This concept has been incorporated into the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge (BOK)2.

Trotz, M., & Thomas, K., & Cunningham, J., & Zhang, Q. (2010, June), Improving Writing In Civil And Environmental Engineering Courses Using Claqwa, An Online Tool For Writing Improvement Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16062

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