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Integrated Programs And Cultural Literacies: Using Writing To Help Engineering Students Transition To Cultural Literacies Of College

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.681.1 - 7.681.16



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Paper Authors

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Jeanne Garland

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Christine Helfers

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Ronald Roedel

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Sarah Duerden

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Integrated Programs and Cultural Literacies: Using Writing to Help Engineering Students Transition to the Cultural Literacies of College

Sarah Duerden, Jeanne Garland, Christine Helfers, & Ronald Roedel Department of English/Department of Electrical Engineering Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287


As educators who work with first-year students, we are all well aware of how difficult some students find the transition to college, particularly first-year engineering students. Of course, some students fail because they are ill prepared for the courses they are taking. Others are too easily distracted by their newfound freedoms. Nevertheless, there is a body of students whose ACT/SAT scores and high school grades suggest that they should easily adapt to the college environment, and yet some of these students do poorly. Our experience in teaching the integrated program suggests that these students experience difficulty in their freshman year because they feel threatened by the new learning environments, teaching methods, and demands that they are experiencing, and they often have problems adapting to these. In developing our ideas for integrated modules for the first-year program, we discovered that this notion of transition was important in all the classes. In English, for example, students need to abandon those techniques such as the “five-paragraph theme,” which may have worked for them in the past. Similarly, in engineering, students need to abandon their linear problem-solving techniques that have worked in the past and allow themselves to spend more time on generating multiple solutions. Both changes are part of what we might call the “cultural literacies” of the subject ¾that is, the “different sets of reading, writing, thinking, listening, and behavioral skills that make up the numerous communities of the academic world and beyond.” 1 Therefore, one of our writing assignments helps students transition to the cultural literacies involved in college. In this assignment, we ask students to examine the various changes they are experiencing and to determine the reasons they need to make these changes for success in their first-year courses. The assignment then asks students to internalize and apply those changes. In this paper, we will discuss the kinds of transitions students need to make, and we will explain how the assignment we have developed helps students to internalize those transitions.

Introduction: The Integrated Program

The Freshman Integrated Program in Engineering (FIPE) at Arizona State University,

which was developed through funding partnerships with the National Science Foundation

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Garland, J., & Helfers, C., & Roedel, R., & Duerden, S. (2002, June), Integrated Programs And Cultural Literacies: Using Writing To Help Engineering Students Transition To Cultural Literacies Of College Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11352

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