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Teaching And Grading In Conferences: Improving Students' Understanding Of Expectations And Evaluations

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Improving Communication Skills in ME

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1057.1 - 8.1057.8



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Paper Authors

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Theresa McGarry

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Edward Young

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Elisabeth Alford

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

Session 1098

Teaching and Grading in Conferences: Improving Students’ Understanding of Expectations and Evaluations

Edward Young, Elisabeth M. Alford, Theresa McGarry University of South Carolina

Abstract: This paper describes the results of a novel approach in a senior mechanical engineering lab course, which combined team reporting, self-assessment of writing, conference grading, and consultative techniques that help learners improve both their communicative competence and their performance. We argue that the approach increases communications assignments and makes them more effective as teaching tools, without increasing the professor’s workload. Moreover, the approach is similar to industry practices of reviewing communications face-to-face and evaluating them in the context of assigned project objectives, and therefore better prepares students for the demands of the workplace. In addition to the instructor’s assessment, the reactions of the students were obtained by oral surveys. The results indicated that the students believed the approach to increase their understanding of assignments, their attention to and understanding of the instructor’s comments, and their motivation. Finally, initial assessment of student writing indicated improvement resulting from the innovation.

A new method of assessment and feedback

Traditionally, grading of communications assignments in engineering courses involves written comments from the instructor(s) designed to give students feedback on their work. Thus, for written assignments the instructor writes comments in the margins and/or general summative comments at the end or beginning of the paper. Similarly, oral presentation assessments often consist of feedback sheets on which the instructor has written comments during and/or after the presentation.

The ultimate aim of these procedures is of course to improve students’ competence in professional communications. However, it often seems doubtful that this goal is achieved. First, written assessments are time-consuming for the instructor, which can cause faculty to be reluctant to give many communications assignments. Therefore, the practice of written assessment can result in less communicative practice for the students. Even more importantly, research has shown that students often do not profit from written comments. They do not know how to use the comments to improve their writing, have difficulty interpreting the comments, and in many cases do not even read them (Bardine 1999, Elbow 1997, Hodges 1997). The problem appears even more serious when we consider that in engineering industry workplaces collaborative writing is the norm, i.e. comments on papers and presentations are given with the expectation that the writers or presenters will consider the comments and modify their communications accordingly.

Therefore, a more effective way of giving students feedback on their communications assignments

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

McGarry, T., & Young, E., & Alford, E. (2003, June), Teaching And Grading In Conferences: Improving Students' Understanding Of Expectations And Evaluations Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11431

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