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Using Writing To Assess Learning In Engineering Design: Quantitative Approaches

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1370.1 - 13.1370.9



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Paper Authors

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Patricia Carlson Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Frederick Berry Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using Writing to Assess Learning in Engineering Design: Quantitative Approaches


This poster (and paper supplement) presents the final results from NSF grant #0404923 – “Writing for Learning and Assessment in Engineering Design Courses.” Quantitative results are given from three years using Calibrated Peer Review™ (CPR™) as a pedagogy and assessment tool in a junior-level introduction to engineering design course.

We draw from a pilot project that used writing/communication assignments to improve the teaching of engineering design. We based our approach on the “writing across the curriculum” (WAC) movement’s premise that verbal composition is an analog for thinking and that communication artifacts can be used to infer student learning in complex problem-solving situations.

CPR™ -- as an advanced form of educational technology -- partners both with the student and with the instructor to monitor learning through formative assessment. In this project, through the vehicle of CPR™, we were able to implement assignments that fully utilize the WAC pedagogy, without overly increasing the workload for instructors. Furthermore, CPR™’s ability both to elicit and to report quantitative peer review helps to make formative assessment an integral part of instruction. And, the data collected by CPR™ during the student’s process of engaging the assignment gives faculty a deeper understanding of how students learn, resulting in better, more individualized feedback for students. CPR™’s extensive data summaries also allow for analysis of patterns and trends in aggregates of students, resulting in better faculty awareness in designing instruction for maximal benefit [1].


Most engineering programs have some type of capstone design experience in the senior year. At Rose-Hulman, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has taken this a step further by requiring a junior-level course (ECE 362: Principles of Engineering Design) which teaches the fundaments of design before the students start their capstone experience. The course is required for all electrical and computer engineering students. ECE 362 is – essentially – a technical writing course taught within the confines of a ten- week quarter.

Students explore, develop, and document the framework for a product idea they would like to pursue during their senior-level capstone course. The concepts of discipline-

Carlson, P., & Berry, F. (2008, June), Using Writing To Assess Learning In Engineering Design: Quantitative Approaches Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4165

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