June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies
Engineering undergraduates should be able to communicate the results of scientific inquiry via lab reports (ABET Outcome 6) in a manner that the audience comprehends and from which the audience can draw useful conclusions (ABET Outcome 3). Lab reports are often the first engineering literacies that undergraduates are assigned. Before entering their first engineering laboratory courses, they are exposed to various general education writing curricula such as first-year composition and/or technical writing, or a writing-across-the-curriculum approach. However, engineering educators often do not have enough knowledge about students’ prior writing knowledge and how they can connect students’ learning from early writing courses to their writing in their engineering lab courses. Writing transfer theories offer a potential solution but require a clear understanding of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). According to the lens of Vygotsky's theory of scaffolding, how can the ZPD in lab report writing be defined in the context of entry-level undergraduate engineering courses? In this study, lab report samples from three entry-level engineering courses at three different universities were collected as a preliminary investigation. The participating lab courses include a sophomore-level Materials Lab course at a private liberal-arts university, a sophomore-level Civil Engineering Materials course at a public polytechnic university, and a junior-level Introduction of Engineering Materials course at a public research university. Although the educational environments such as general education writing curricula, engineering curricula, and class size are varied among three institutions, they all include material testing labs such as tensile tests and hardness tests in the lab topics. We collected and analyzed undergraduates’ lab report samples (n = 18) of the first lab and the last lab in order to identify the ZPD of lab report writing in the context of three entry-level engineering lab courses. We developed and used an inclusive assessment rubric originated from the 2014 Writing Program Administrators Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition (WPA 3.0 outcomes) to analyze recurrent patterns of students' writing 1) in disciplinary meaning-making (i.e. organizational structures, reasoning, use of sources, etc.) and 2) technical communication (i.e. writing conventions, use of multi-modal design and/or quality of graphs/tables, etc.). This preliminary research uses Vygotsky's ZPD to identify the area of writing knowledge that undergraduates can acquire during one term of entry-level materials testing lab courses from three schools.
Kim, D., & Riley, C., & Lulay, K. (2019, June), Preliminary Investigation of Undergraduate Students’ Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) in Writing Lab Reports in Entry-level Engineering Laboratory Courses at Three Universities Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33188
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