June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Engineering Physics & Physics
Thinking and Understanding from Writing
Many concepts in physics and engineering courses cannot be understood easily. Although powerful computers with advanced software can generate fancy animations, students still cannot grasp these concepts without spending time reflecting on them. In the past, homework was the tool used by instructors to promote student learning. Unfortunately, now many students can bypass the challenge and they directly go to the solution manual for answers, which is widely available from the internet.
One way to nudge students reflecting on the concepts and theories is writing. In the Thermodynamics course offered in fall 2016, students are asked to write a summary every week. This summary has the same weight as the homework; the former emphasizes on concept and theory, and the latter stresses on problem solving skills. Unlike the homework, the summary cannot be copied from other sources easily. Students need to submit their summary through Turnitin, an effective plagiarism check software.
After the summary is graded, the best one is selected and revised by the instructor, and then it is posted at the class website. In this way, every student can read it and learn something they have missed. Initially the quality of the summaries was not very high, but the posted sample sets up a higher standard, and gradually most students improve their writing on the summary. At the end of the semester, each student will write a review on a specific topic in this course, and they will present their review to the whole class. In this generation of students, peer pressure is much stronger than the power of instructors.
The effectiveness of this approach will be assessed in two different ways. The first assessment is a direct questionnaire, and students will rate the effectiveness of writing the summaries on a 1-5 scale. In addition, they will also rate the usefulness of the posted sample summaries, as well as the project and presentation at the end of the semester. The second assessment is a concept inventory test, and the scores can demonstrate the effectiveness objectively.
Zhang, Y., & Probst, D. K. (2017, June), Thinking and Understanding from Writing Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29026
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