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Work in Progress: Design of a First-Year Rhetoric Course for Engineering Students

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Tuesday 5-Minute Work-in-Progress Postcard Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count

13

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/29148

Download Count

105

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Paper Authors

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Mohammad Usama Zahid University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Mohammad Zahid earned his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and Mathematics from Saint Louis University, and he is currently a PhD candidate, Research Assistant, and Teaching Assistant in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has taught lab courses in physics and bioengineering and has assisted in level bioengineering courses.

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Evin Scott Groundwater University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Originally from Guthrie, Oklahoma, I got my B.A. in English at the University of Oklahoma in 2011 and my M.A. in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy in 2014, also at Oklahoma. Currently a PhD candidate in the University of Illinois's Center for Writing Studies, my research examines the intersections of archival practices, counterpublics, and masculinity studies.

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Yanfen Li University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Yanfen Li is a Ph.D student in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign working under Dr. Kris Kilian. Her research focus is on biomaterials and tissue engineering.

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Celia Mathews Elliott University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Celia Mathews Elliott is a science writer and technical editor in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has been teaching technical communications to upper-level undergraduate physics majors since 2000, and recently developed, with S. Lance Cooper, a graduate technical writing course.

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Andrew Michael Smith University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Andrew M. Smith, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Dr. Smith received a B.S. in Chemistry in 2002 and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering in 2008, both from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He trained with Professor Shuming Nie as a graduate student and Whitaker Foundation Fellow, continuing his postdoctoral studies at Emory University as a Distinguished CCNE Fellow and NIH K99 Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Smith's research interests include nanomaterial engineering, single-molecule imaging, and cancer biology. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Bioengineering and is the Associate Head of Undergraduate Programs.

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Dallas R Trinkle University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dallas R. Trinkle is an associate professor in Materials Science and Engineering at Univ. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from Ohio State University in 2003. Following his time as a National Research Council postdoctoral researcher at the Air Force Research Laboratory, he joined the faculty of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Univ. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2006. He was a TMS Young Leader International Scholar in 2008, received the NSF/CAREER award in 2009, the Xerox Award for Faculty Research at Illinois in 2011, the AIME Robert Lansing Hardy Award in 2014, co-chaired the 2011 Physical Metallurgy Gordon Research conference, and became a Willett Faculty Scholar at Illinois in 2015. His research focuses on defects in materials using density-functional theory, and novel techniques to understand problems in mechanical behavior and transport.

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Kelly Ritter University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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P. Scott Carney University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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P. Scott Carney is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois where he has been since 2001. His group website may be found at http://optics.beckman.illinois.edu. Carney teaches the ECE senior capstone course and a rotation of three advanced graduate courses in optics. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Rochester (1999) and was a post-doc at Washington University (1999-2001). He is a theorist with research interests in inverse problems, imaging, coherence theory, and other branches of optical physics. Carney is also the co-organizer of the Saturday Engineering for Everyone lectures, a popular lecture series for all ages at the University of Illinois, and was a 2009 Fulbright Scholar to the Netherlands.

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Marcia Pool University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dr. Marcia Pool is a Lecturer in bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In her career, Marcia has been active in improving undergraduate education through developing problem-based laboratories to enhance experimental design skills; developing a preliminary design course focused on problem identification and market space (based on an industry partner’s protocol); and mentoring and guiding student teams through the senior design capstone course and a translational course following senior design. To promote biomedical/bioengineering, Marcia works with Women in Engineering to offer outreach activities and is engaged at the national level as Executive Director of the biomedical engineering honor society, Alpha Eta Mu Beta.

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Karin Jensen University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Karin Jensen is a Teaching Assistant Professor in bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At UIUC she teaches undergraduate courses and serves as an academic advisor. Before joining UIUC she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Sanofi Oncology in Cambridge, MA. She earned a bachelor's degree in biological engineering from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia.

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Abstract

Work in Progress: Design of a First-Year Rhetoric Course for Engineering Students

This Work in Progress paper describes an initiative to intervene at a curricular level, asking engineering students to consider writing as an essential and crucial element of being an engineer- and developing rhetorical awareness and writing skills. Educators and employers deem communication skills as critical for undergraduates (1), and ABET recognizes this by including “an ability to communicate effectively” as one of its stated student outcomes (2). However, this is an area that engineering students themselves perceive as the greatest gap in their undergraduate education (3). Furthermore, many engineering students undervalue the importance of writing skills and buy into the myth of engineers as ‘bad writers,’ believing themselves to be poor writers and communicators.

To achieve these goals, a committee composed of engineers from a variety of fields along with composition studies experts from the Undergraduate Rhetoric Program developed a curriculum designed to focus on introducing engineers to relevant genres and types of writing prominent in many kinds of engineering. The “Writing in Engineering Fields” course, designed to mirror the university’s first-year composition course, aims to inculcate these skills in a single semester. Writing assignments will include genres such as lab reports, abstracts, problem statements, technical instructions, and more “public”-oriented kinds of engineering writing. Also included are rhetorical reflections that ask students to consider the choices made in their own writing and to understand writing as a process in which they engage.

The course is structured so that students begin with an introduction to the Grand Challenges concepts, culminating in an assignment that asks students to analyze the written and rhetorical choices made across three texts that reflect a particular Grand Challenge concern, along with a rhetorical reflection. In addition, students will be introduced to the purposes and aims of writing as an engineer, as well as being introduced to the variety of writing genres engineers must master. The course continues into a second unit focused on writing that is primarily written by engineers to be read by other engineers, and includes discussion/study of genres such as problem statements, “state-of-art” reviews, and technical instructions, among others. This middle unit culminates in two different major assignments, a set of technical instructions and a ”state-of-art” review for the student’s chosen engineering field, each also having a rhetorical reflection attached. The final unit shifts to considering how engineers must be capable of writing towards non-engineering audiences as well as technically knowledgeable audiences, so this unit returns to asking students to consider the rhetorical choices required, culminating in a “remix” of an earlier assignment into a different, more public genre.

The course efficacy in achieving established goals will be assessed through a series of short surveys designed to evaluate students’ attitudes toward and perceptions of technical writing, along with an assessment of students’ proficiency in writing by a panel of faculty judges drawn from both the English and Engineering. The control group will consist of student volunteers taking the traditional first-year academic writing course and students who received no first-year writing instruction.

We believe that engineering students, some of whom may have tested out of the first-year composition requirements before their arrival, will find this course more relevant and engaging and will challenge the myth of engineers being poor or disinterested writers. In the longer term, professors in the students’ particular engineering disciplines will be better able to address specific, highly technical engineering genres, as their students will have been introduced to many of them, as well as to rhetorical and genre principles of writing in general.

1. Ford JD, Riley LiA. Integrating Communication and Engineering Education: A Look at Curricula, Courses, and Support Systems. J Eng Educ. 2003;92(4):325-328. 2. ABET. Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs, 2016 – 2017. http://www.abet.org/accreditation/accreditation-criteria/criteria-for-accrediting-engineering-programs-2016-2017/. Published 2016. Accessed November 10, 2016. 3. Riley LA, Furth P, Zelmer J. Assessing Our Engineering Alumni: Determinants of Success in the Workplace. In: 2000 ASEE/Gulf-Southwest Section Annual Conference.

Zahid, M. U., & Groundwater, E. S., & Li, Y., & Elliott, C. M., & Smith, A. M., & Trinkle, D. R., & Ritter, K., & Carney, P. S., & Pool, M., & Jensen, K. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Design of a First-Year Rhetoric Course for Engineering Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/29148

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015