June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society and Computing & Information Technology
26.1382.1 - 26.1382.16
Something to Write Home(work) About: An Analysis of Writing Exercises in Fluid Mechanics TextbooksAs assessments of learning outcomes are increasingly emphasized through accreditationrequirements (e.g., via ABET) and other quality assurance initiatives, written communication isone area that engineering instructors often find challenging to incorporate and assess. This isparticularly true in large core courses at the sophomore and junior levels. In this project, ananalysis of writing-based problems in fluid mechanics textbooks attempts to locate theavailability of activities that would allow students to practice writing, to learn through writing,and to use writing to relate course content to broader applications and contexts.This study is part of a larger ongoing project to understand and expand the incorporation ofwriting in large-lecture engineering courses, including investigation of faculty perspectives andtextbook assignments and assessments. This snapshot of writing-across-engineering will theninform efforts to create a range of writing activities (and assessment methods), mapped to ABETlearning outcomes, that instructors can incorporate in large engineering classes. Our objective isto examine widely-used textbooks in thermodynamics, materials, circuits, statics, and dynamics.In the preliminary analysis reported in this paper, we study problem sets from five popular fluidmechanics textbooks to find problems requiring more than merely numerical or calculatedanswers. As these writing-based problems are identified, we will categorize them in terms of thetype of prompt they represent, such as asking for explanation of a solution, application of aconcept to real-world examples, or problem-solving that requires description of processes.Once the number and types of writing problems in these textbooks has been analyzed andorganized, we will further explore how well the texts support actually using these exercises inclass. While writing-based prompts might be present, for example, instructors might not havethe resources, expertise, and/or support needed to incorporate them in their classes. Morespecifically, examination of solution sets and instructor’s guides will reveal how much thetextbooks equip instructors to assign and then assess the writing prompts that do exist. Finally,the extant writing assignments will be mapped to ABET learning outcomes to see how promptscan potentially be used to address key learning outcomes, e.g., in relation to the studentoutcomes in ABET Criterion 3.The result of this analysis will be an understanding of how well popular fluid mechanicstextbook assignments guide students in writing, and how well the textbooks equip instructors tomake use of those assignments. We will use this data to identify areas in which more writingassignments and assessment training would be useful for the teaching of engineering. This paperwill likely be of particular interest to faculty and staff interested in using writing to support avariety of technical, professional, and global learning outcomes in core engineering courses.
Trellinger, N. M., & Essig, R. R., & Troy, C. D., & Jesiek, B. K., & Boyd, J. (2015, June), Something to Write Home(work) About: An Analysis of Writing Exercises in Fluid Mechanics Textbooks Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24719
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