Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
The impact of scaffolded writing instruction on follow-up course assignments
The Mechanical Engineering Department at [Institution] implemented a series of scaffolded assignments across several required courses to improve students’ ability to write memos. This scaffolding plan was based on a study of writing across the ME curriculum with the goal of identifying the communication tasks and skills that the department expects to transfer across courses . By examining current assignments, soliciting input from practicing engineers, reading the appropriate engineering education literature [2,3], and using composition theory , the department developed and implemented a plan to sequence memo instruction and assignments in three courses across two years in the curriculum. The goal of this scaffolding plan was to encourage students to transfer previous writing instruction to new contexts so they would be able to write professional documents independently by the time they graduate.
For this work, we define scaffolding to be a purposeful alignment of instruction and expectations across multiple courses throughout the curriculum (not just in a single course). The level of instruction and guidance about the content and features of technical memos is slowly reduced as students practice applying what they have learned in past classes to later assignments. This scaffolding requires clear communication between instructors to ensure they build on previous instruction instead of starting from scratch.
In this paper, we will discuss the assessment of the effectiveness of the scaffolding plan for the second-year ME curriculum by collecting memos in a third-year course. In 2018, we collected memos from students who had not received the intentional, scaffolded instruction during the second-year curriculum. In 2019, we will collect memos from students who will have mostly received the scaffolded instruction. In November and December of 2019, we will rate all collected memos using a rubric that assesses rhetorical and generic features common to all technical memos: • writing • technical credibility • graphical elements • memo formatting
During our rating process, raters will not know which year the memos were collected. Our research will be completed in time to report our findings by the February draft paper deadline. Our paper will describe the findings of our comparison of the memos written by students who were and were not part of the scaffolding plan we designed. We believe our research will answer questions including: • Does scaffolded instruction in a previous course sequence improve students’ memo writing in a follow-up course? • If yes, in which areas is this improvement seen?
Finally, we will discuss proposed modifications to our scaffolding plan and applications of our findings to other communication genres.
 Reference removed for blind review process.  S. Conrad, “A comparison of practitioner and student writing in civil engineering,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 106, no. 2, pp. 191–217, 2017.  J. Craig, N. Lerner, and M. Poe, “Innovation across the curriculum: Three case studies in teaching science and engineering communication,” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 280–301, 2008.  J. Meyer and R. Land, Overcoming barriers to student understanding: threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. London: Routledge, 2012.
Summers, S., & Bercich, R., & Cornwell, P., & Kawano, D. T., & Mayhew, J. E., & Moseley, S. (2020, June), The Impact of Scaffolded Writing Instruction on Followup Course Assignments Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35332
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