June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
"Writing Across Engineering: A Collaborative Approach to Support STEM Faculty’s Integration of Writing Instruction in their Classes"
As the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has emphasized , engineering students need to develop effective communication skills. Embedding communication instruction in technical courses signals to students that their profession values communication, facilitates transmission of discipline-specific conventions, and tackles difficulties associated with learning transfer . However, STEM faculty seldom receive any preparation to teach writing or other types of communication. This paper describes a program designed to support STEM faculty as they work to integrate writing and writing instruction in their classes.
Situated in a college of engineering at an R1 university, we have undertaken a multi-year collaboration between STEM and Writing Studies faculty and graduate students that aims to improve engineering students’ writing and communication. Taking a transdisciplinary action research approach (3), we follow an integrative, iterative model of intervention and assessment.
Working to form and sustain a faculty learning community of practice (4, 5) that extends traditional Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) approaches (6), we designed what we call a Writing Across Engineering (WAE) program. In WAE, co-leaders from Writing Studies and STEM fields facilitate weekly workshops for a cohort of STEM faculty over a full semester; then individual faculty are supported by interdisciplinary mentoring teams as they implement changes in their courses. In this paper, we describe and provide some preliminary assessment of the initial year of WAE. Specifically, we describe the WAE syllabus, discuss what guided topic selection and ordering, illustrate how materials were adapted for a STEM audience, describe the types of mentoring projects that took place, and note challenges and limitations.
Using a mixed methods approach for formative assessment of WAE, we have administered pre-and-post surveys, collected freewrites and materials from WAE workshops, recorded mentoring sessions, collected course materials from before and after intervention, and conducted interviews and classroom observations with mentored faculty and their TAs. While analyses of this large dataset are ongoing, preliminary analysis of WAE is promising. For example, all post-survey respondents reported making changes in their writing instruction and having higher confidence in their preparedness to teach specific features related to writing processes. The three faculty who participated in the mentoring made changes ranging from extensive redesign of a key writing assignment in a small grad class to a broad revision of assignment sequences, assessment materials, TA training practices, and instructional approaches in a large writing-intensive undergraduate course.
Based on our experiences to date, we suggest this approach has helped engineering faculty in various specializations sharpen their identities as writers and writing instructors and offers a model for program- and college-level interventions to enhance engineering instruction in writing and communication. References:  Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Criteria for accrediting applied science programs, 2015–2016. 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.abet.org/accreditation/accreditation-criteria/criteria-for-accrediting-applied-and-natural-science-programs-2018-2019/#GC2
 Salamon, G., & Perkins, D. (1989). Rocky roads to transfer: Rethinking mechanism of a neglected phenomenon. Educational Psychologist, 24, 113-142.
. Stokols, D. (2006). Toward a science of transdisciplinary action research. American Journal of Community Psychology, 38, 63-77.
 Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
 Jovanovic, V., & Tombolato-Terzic, D., & Richards, D. & Pazos, P., & McKittrick, M., & Romberger, J., & Popescu, O. (2017, June). Developing a faculty learning community to support writing across different STEM disciplines. Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://www.asee.org/public/conferences/78/papers/19747/view
 Walvoord, B. E., & Hunt, L. L., & Dowling, H. F., & McMahon, J. D. (1997). In the long run: A study of faculty in three writing-across-the-curriculum programs. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Ware, R., & Turnipseed, N., & Gallagher, J. R., & Elliott, C. M., & Popovics, J. S., & Prior, P., & Zilles, J. L. (2019, June), Writing Across Engineering: A Collaborative Approach to Support STEM Faculty’s Integration of Writing Instruction in their Classes Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33671
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