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Teaching Peer Review of Writing in a Large First-year Electrical and Computer Engineering Class: A Comparison of Two Methods

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Communication Across the Divisions I: Communication in Engineering Disciplines

Tagged Divisions

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society and Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1482.1 - 26.1482.29



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Paper Authors

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Mike Ekoniak Virginia Tech


Molly Scanlon Virginia Tech

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Molly J. Scanlon is an Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University where she teaches undergraduate and graduate writing courses. She received her PhD in Rhetoric and Writing from Virginia Tech. Her research interests include visual rhetoric, public rhetoric, and writing across the disciplines.

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M. Jean Mohammadi-Aragh Mississippi State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jean Mohammadi-Aragh is an assistant research professor with a joint appointment in the Bagley College of Engineering dean’s office and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Mississippi State University. Through her role in the Hearin Engineering First-year Experiences (EFX) Program, she is assessing the college’s current first-year engineering efforts, conducting rigorous engineering education research to improve first-year experiences, and promoting the adoption of evidence-based instructional practices. In addition to research in first year engineering, Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh investigates technology-supported classroom learning and using scientific visualization to improve understanding of complex phenomena. She earned her Ph.D. (2013) in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech, and both her M.S. (2004) and B.S. (2002) in Computer Engineering from Mississippi State. In 2013, Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh was honored as a promising new engineering education researcher when she was selected as an ASEE Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty.

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A  Case  Study  of  the  Effectiveness  of  Two  Modes  Of  Peer  Review  Instruction  in  a   First-­‐Year  Engineering  Course      Effective  written  communication  skills  are  essential  for  engineers,  as  is  widely  recognized  in  the  field  of  engineering  education  and  by  US  and  international  engineering  professional  and  program  accreditation  organizations.  Since  implementation  of  the  EC2000  criteria,  communication  has  been  also  been  explicitly  required  by  ABET  accreditation  criteria  for  engineering  programs.  Specifically,  criterion  3g  states  that  programs  must  demonstrate  that  their  graduates  develop  “an  ability  to  communicate  effectively.”      Best  practices  of  writing  pedagogy  treat  writing  as  a  process  rather  than  a  product.  This  includes  writing  and  revising  drafts  of  work  based  on  formative  feedback  rather  than  summative  evaluative  feedback  of  a  final  product.  Incorporating  revision  in  the  writing  process  is  recognized  as  an  invaluable  component  of  improving  written  work,  but  writing  assignments  in  engineering  courses  neither  acknowledge  nor  incorporate  this  process  into  the  assignment.  Engineering  instructors  may  not  feel  qualified  to  effectively  provide  feedback  or  that  draft  feedback  is  unfeasible  within  the  constraints  of  many  engineering  courses—instructor  time  and  large  student-­‐faculty  ratios.        One  potential  way  to  address  these  concerns  is  to  use  peer  feedback.  Recent  work  by  Cho  &  MacArthur  has  shown  that  peer  feedback  can  be  as  or  more  effective  than  instructor  feedback  when  student  writing  is  reviewed  by  multiple  peers  rather  than  a  single  peer.  An  open  question,  however,  is  how  students  can  be  trained  to  give  effective  peer  feedback.  Engineering  instructors  often  partner  with  a  writing  instructor  to  develop  assignments  and/or  provide  this  training.      The  purpose  of  this  study  is  to  examine  the  results  of  two  types  of  peer  review  instruction  in  a  first-­‐year  electrical  and  computer  engineering  course.  In  two  sections  of  the  course,  a  writing  instructor  provided  in-­‐class  training  on  peer  review  techniques  through  a  short  lesson,  workshop,  and  instructional  handout;  in  three  additional  sections  students  were  provided  the  handout  but  no  in-­‐class  instruction.  Because  not  all  engineering  instructors  who  introduce  writing  assignments  with  peer  review  into  their  courses  will  have  the  time  or  institutional  support  to  have  a  writing  instructor  provide  in-­‐class  training,  this  research  aims  to  compare  the  peer  review  results  achieved  in  the  two  groups  by  answering  the  following  research  questions:      RQ1:   Are  peer  review  comments  qualitatively  or  quantitatively  different  between   the  in-­‐class  instruction  and  handout  groups?  RQ2:   What  are  student  perceptions  of  the  effectiveness  of  peer  review,  and  do  they   differ  based  on  instruction  type?    Students’  peer  feedback  comments  were  characterized  using:  1)  a  priori  coding  of  feedback  comments  based  on  characteristics  of  quality  peer  feedback  grounded  in  the  writing  pedagogy  literature  and  2)  assessment  categories  the  assignment  rubric.  A  follow-­‐up  survey  was  conducted  to  determine  student  perceptions  of  the  intervention.  This  paper  will  report  on  the  results  of  this  analysis.    

Ekoniak, M., & Scanlon, M., & Mohammadi-Aragh, M. J. (2015, June), Teaching Peer Review of Writing in a Large First-year Electrical and Computer Engineering Class: A Comparison of Two Methods Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24819

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