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Use of Student Tutors to Improve Engineering Technology Student Written Communication Skills

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session


Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1297.1 - 23.1297.17



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Paper Authors


Robert Weissbach P.E. Pennsylvania State University, Erie Orcid 16x16

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Robert Weissbach is currently an associate professor of engineering at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. From October 2007 through June 2008, he was a visiting researcher at Aalborg University in Aalborg, Denmark. His research interests are in renewable energy, energy storage, power electronics and power systems.

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Ruth Camille Pflueger Pennsylvania State University in Erie, the Behrend College Orcid 16x16

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Ruth Pflueger has been the director of the Learning Resource Center at Penn State Behrend for 15 years, where she is also an affiliate instructor of English. She has been involved in a number of federal grants, most recently in a major NSF STEM grant, as well as an EU-Atlantis grant.

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Use of Student Tutors to Improve Engineering Technology Student Written Communication SkillsImproving written communication skills for engineering technology students is a critical area ofdevelopment. Not only is written communication required as part of the ABET accreditationprocess, but oftentimes engineering technology students are severely deficient in this area as theymatriculate through their chosen degree program. Many programs only require one or twowriting courses outside of the major. In addition, courses that require communication in theform of laboratory reports often provide minimal feedback on using appropriate writing style,effectively supporting results with analysis, and maintaining efficiency in writing.In this paper, an approach is presented that unburdens some of the responsibility from theinstructor to student tutors who are skilled writers and outside of the engineering technologymajor. Although this effort has been ongoing for many years, the prior results had been modestat best. This time, the tutors sat down with the instructor of a junior level course and theirtutoring supervisor for an hour prior to submission of lab reports in the course taught by theinstructor. Detailed instructions were presented to the tutors by the course instructor, indicatingtheir responsibilities in helping the students improve. However, the instructions also indicatedwhere the students needed to accept responsibility for both making appropriate changes to theirlab report as well as understanding the underlying methods that yield better writtencommunication skills. The tutoring supervisor highlighted the ways that the instructionsinterfaced with existing writing tutoring practices. The tutors had the opportunity to askquestions of both the course instructor and their writing supervisor.After the lab reports had been submitted and graded, students were asked to fill out and submit asurvey on their interactions with the tutors and the value of using the tutors to improve theirwritten communication skills. Despite the additional effort required to schedule an appointmentwith a tutor and make the time to meet, the students overall responded positively to theirinteractions with the tutors. In addition, the instructor’s evaluation of student competencyshowed noticeable improvements relative to prior classes. The meeting with the writing tutors,all of whom were unfamiliar with the technical course content, resulted in both a clearerunderstanding of the instructor’s expectations and a greater commitment to positive outcomes forthe students.

Weissbach, R., & Pflueger, R. C. (2013, June), Use of Student Tutors to Improve Engineering Technology Student Written Communication Skills Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22682

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