In general, students’ performance increases with student engagement in the learning process. As part of the engineering curriculum, the engineering students start building their analytical and problem-solving skills from the very first semester, and by the time they graduate, they improve this skill substantially by gradually building on it. On the contrary, the writing skills are usually focused on in the first couple of semesters at the university which introduces students to the concepts of Learning-to-Write, and then this information is used as a medium to communicate information without realizing the importance of it as a tool (i.e., Writing-to-Learn) to help students learn the content in the course. In an effort to help students build on their writing skills throughout the curriculum, the university initiated a quality enhancement plan (QEP) with a focus on writing across the curriculum. As part of this plan, the Digital Design Lab course, offered at the sophomore level in the curriculum, implemented several strategies to help students build on their previous writing skills, and in the process improved their technical vocabulary in the course, the ability to communicate using it, increased students’ engagement, collaboration, and performance in the course.
In this work, the effect of deliberately engaging students in their writing skills as a process to learn the content material and communicate it effectively is presented. Several strategies were used like faculty instruction, using rubrics as a guide for assessment, peer reviewing, and engaging a student writing fellow (employed by the QEP and mentored by the Writing Center at the university) to assist students in this process. The effectiveness of these strategies was verified using multiple statistical assessment methods and compared students’ performance before and after the intervention of the emphasis on the writing-to-learn process. Also, statistical analysis of data in the same course but without the intervention is used to illustrate how the intervention increased the engagement of students and their performance in the course along with their writing. Qualitative data is also presented to assess the benefit of the intervention for students learning course content.
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