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WIP: Integrating Writing Throughout the Engineering Curriculum

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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

Multidisciplinary Endeavors: Engineering and Liberal Arts

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Denise H. Bauer Methodist University

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Dr. Denise H. Bauer is an Associate Professor, Chair, and founding Director of the Department of Engineering at Methodist University. Dr. Bauer has worked on several initiatives to increase enrollment and retention of underrepresented groups including development of first-year engineering courses for students under-prepared for college-level math. Her main research area is Human Factors and Ergonomics, which she uses to help design classroom environments considering both student and instructor needs.

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Many engineering programs include writing in some form as a requirement to meet the ABET outcome measuring communication with a broad audience. However, most of the time the writing is limited to a capstone paper or smaller class project reports. In addition, most programs offer no formal or even informal instruction on writing beyond the required composition courses taken in the first year. Students also do not consider writing a high priority in their engineering studies. Programs then expect students to produce a high-level product three years later without the practice and fully understanding the impact of written communication. At XXXX University, we have made it a priority to integrate writing throughout the engineering curriculum that exposes students to writing instruction each year. XXXX University embraces writing across the entire campus through several initiatives on writing improvement and appreciation for students and faculty. One such initiative is that at least one course in each major is considered a writing enrichment course where a significant portion of the course assessment is based on some form of writing. For most majors, this means a course in the third or fourth year of the program where students write a research paper related to the major. In the Engineering Program, we have expanded upon this concept by integrating writing in at least one engineering course every semester. Students begin their writing in the first year through a self-assessment paper and a team project technical report. These assignments place an emphasis on basic sentence structure, logical report sections, and consistent use of first or third person. Writing in the second year had relied simply on course project reports completed usually as a team, but sometimes individually. Although students were receiving practice in their writing, they were merely mimicking what they had done in their composition courses; this was not providing the growth that we would like see. Therefore, the engineering program introduced the use of the Hochmann Method in the mechanics course to strengthen the students’ writing as well as understanding of the course topics. Students complete short, quiz-like assignments by finishing a sentence based on the given instructions to develop higher-level sentences that include having to connect the engineering mechanics content. The hope is that using this method will help students develop their communication of engineering concepts to aid them in subsequent engineering writing assignments. During the third year, application-based lab assignments in one of the engineering courses give students an in-depth understanding of the topics while introducing them to the types of written communication methods they are most likely to encounter during their career. Using the concepts of John C. Bean, we developed writing prompts that include the purpose, audience, format, and task as an intriguing problem. Students work either individually or as a team to present their results and suggest a final solution to a specific individual (such as head of manufacturing or president of the company, never the professor) in the format of an email, memo, short report, or long report. Students receive feedback from the ‘client’ and/or the professor who selects a bid ‘winner’ each week. The following semester, students take Technical Writing to develop specific writing skills used in engineering further. Although offered through the English Department, the engineering and English faculty work together so that the Technical Writing course complements the writing done in the previous semester. Finally, in the fourth year, students complete the ‘normal’ research paper individually as well as the capstone team report. While, we will use these two products as our main ABET assessment pieces, we also have collected data from the earlier writing assignments to assess if and how the integration improves student writing in the engineering program. As this is only the #### year of the Engineering Program, we are working on completing the first round of full data collection and assessment.

Bauer, D. H. (2020, June), WIP: Integrating Writing Throughout the Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35548

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