Asee peer logo

Writing Across The Engineering Curriculum: Challenges, Experiences, And Insights From The University Of Toronto’s Engineering Communications Centre

Download Paper |


2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Models for Integrating Writing II

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1319.1 - 8.1319.12

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Rebecca Pinkus

Download Paper |

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

R. Pinkus 2003-1978

“Writing Across the Engineering Curriculum: Challenges, Experiences, and Insights from the University of Toronto’s Engineering Communications Centre”

Rebecca A. Pinkus, MTPW, MA Language Across the Curriculum Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering University of Toronto


Writing Centers have been in place throughout university systems since the early 1970s [1], as have Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) efforts; both aim to use writing as a form of learning. That is, as students learn to write about their discipline, they also learn to think more critically about the content they are learning. When these concepts are placed into the Engineering school environment, both students and staff working in writing centers and WAC are faced with writing/reading about difficult technical concepts. There is a challenge faced with writing in the engineering field, and yet as difficult as some technical topics may be to discuss in writing, students benefit from going through the process of doing so. Writing Center and WAC staff and staff also have a challenge in this situation, and that is dealing with the vast and complex content knowledge that students across an engineering curriculum cover; where their counterparts in liberal arts and humanities have relatively easy access to content, writing specialists in the engineering field must deal with material that is often quite conceptually difficult to grasp.

While much research in our field is done on how engineering students best learn communications methods [2, 3], little focus is on how staff and staff deal with this technical content of their job. Our expertise in our own field is assumed, yet I doubt there are many writing instructors who can claim to never have felt a bit out of their league with the content of a student’s technically-based writing assignment.

This paper concerns a question I have been thinking about for some time: How much technical/engineering knowledge does a humanities-trained communications instructor need to teach well in the engineering school environment? This question, is, however somewhat difficult to answer because the bottom line is that “it depends.” It depends on the academic environment. It depends on the course involvement. It depends on the instructor, the student, and also on the assignment. The factors are so varied that it is almost impossible to come to a simple answer.

The question, however, is an important one because it is something that writing instructors working in an engineering staff face on a daily basis, and certain issues surrounding it certainly warrant exploration. Based on the insights and experiences of staff at the Engineering Communications Centre and Language Across the Curriculum (LAC) at the

Pinkus, R. (2003, June), Writing Across The Engineering Curriculum: Challenges, Experiences, And Insights From The University Of Toronto’s Engineering Communications Centre Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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: © 2003 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