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Teaching Report Writing in Undergraduate Labs

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 2

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Amber Genau University of Alabama at Birmingham

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Dr. Amber Genau is an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She received her B.S. and M.S. from Iowa State University and Ph.D. from Northwestern University, all in materials engineering. Before coming to UAB, Dr. Genau spent two years as a guest scientist at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne, Germany, working on metal solidification and microstructural characterization. She is particularly interested in broadening participation in engineering and providing international experiences and perspectives to undergraduate students.

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For undergraduate engineering students in lower level laboratory classes, writing up the results from their lab activities is often far more of a challenge than performing the activity itself or even analyzing the results. The instructor’s challenge is therefore not just to teach concepts like tensile testing or cooling curve analysis, but also to teach technical communication and the accepted reporting standards and vocabulary of the field. Over the last decade, the author has repeated taught the Introduction to Engineering Materials course for materials majors, which is typically taken by students in the spring of their sophomore year, and is the first course where students are expected to write full technical lab reports. The paper will discuss the steps that the author has taken to scaffold the experience of report writing for students, including the creation of a 4-page MSE Technical Writing Guide which is now used throughout the department. Other steps including assigning students to read and answer questions about a short technical journal article, requiring peer review of classmates’ reports, and multiple graded and ungraded but mandatory submission steps for each report. These activities have resulted in significant improvement in students’ lab report writing ability as observed in subsequent lab courses.

Genau, A. (2020, June), Teaching Report Writing in Undergraduate Labs Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35279

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