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Paired Course And Peer Tutoring Impact On Critical Thinking And Writing Skills Of First Year Engineering Students

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.939.1 - 14.939.12

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Paper Authors

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Karen High Oklahoma State University


Rebecca Damron Oklahoma State University

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REBECCA DAMRON earned her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987 in South Asian Studies, her M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language in 1992 from Oklahoma State University, and her Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1997 from Oklahoma State University. Dr. Damron worked in the writing program in the department of English at the University of Tulsa from 1996-2001, and is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Director of the OSU Writing Center at Oklahoma State University. Her main research interests are in writing in the disciplines, discourse analysis of talk about writing and corpus-based analysis of written texts.

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

Paired Course and Peer Tutoring Impact on Critical Thinking and Writing Skills of First-year Engineering Students Abstract

For the engineering educator, implementing and integrating the professional, institutional, and pedagogical goals and expectations into a course is complex and becomes much more so when developing and implementing curricula for first-year students. These students are not always comfortable with problem posing situations, and as the tasks increase in complexity, so does the difficulty in thinking and writing about those tasks. John Dewey’s claim still holds today, "much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life." The establishment of "learning communities," has been one of the most important educational reforms to come about based on Dewey’s challenges.

This study integrates the notion of a learning community with problem-posing by using a model of critical thinking (Foundation for Critical Thinking) to structure writing assignments requiring students to report about in-class, team-based activities and apply them to engineering concepts. This study was conducted to determine critical thinking and writing skills of freshman engineering students as measured by assessing assignments written in response to cooperative in-class activities, engineering and writing attitude surveys and critical thinking disposition surveys, and academic performance. Students in three sections of an Introduction to Engineering course participated in the study (n=68) in 2007. Two sections of the course were paired with two sections of English composition, and one section was not paired. The study also included several students in a female only composition class. Attitude surveys correlated with these scores showing that attitudes toward writing and engineering were a factor. Results of the 2007 study show that mean scores of paired students were generally higher in both writing and critical thinking. Paired course students also showed significant positive changes in viewing themselves as writers.

For the fall of 2008, the study has been expanded to look at the impact of writing fellows (WF). Four undergraduate engineering students and one undergraduate English student were chosen as WFs. The students in the class wrote reports based on design activities. For each report, the students were required to turn in a draft. The reports were distributed to the Writing Fellows who then read the reports; filled out a checklist (based on the requirements of the assignment); and wrote a cover letter, which addressed the strengths and weaknesses of the individual student’s report. The Writing Fellow and student then met for a 30 minutes face-to-face tutorial to discuss the Writing Fellow’s comments on the paper. The students then revised the reports and turned in the final draft to the Engineering 1111 instructor, who then graded the reports.


The impetus for this research study came from the co-presenters’ 1) local interest in writing and critical thinking general education assessment work in progress on the Oklahoma State University Campus, and 2) larger concerns expressed in such studies as Rising Above the Gathering Storm1, The Engineer of 20202, and ABET accreditation criteria that focus on ‘professional skills’. All of these documents indicate a need to study and incorporate such ‘process’ or ‘awareness’3 skills into engineering education in order to produce engineers who will be able to compete globally in the coming decades.

High, K., & Damron, R. (2009, June), Paired Course And Peer Tutoring Impact On Critical Thinking And Writing Skills Of First Year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

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