This poster presentation will provide an overview of the cycle of research and teaching used in the Civil Engineering Writing Project to improve students' preparation for writing in the workplace. Our goal is to improve students’ writing by integrating writing instruction into existing courses and assignments, rather than through major curriculum changes, so that new instruction can be implemented more easily and quickly. The project received funding through the Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM (TUES) program. Although the project focuses on civil engineering, the model is adaptable to any STEM discipline.
In the first phase of the project, we analyzed student writing and effective practitioner writing. We worked with engineers in industry to identify the features of student writing that would be most problematic in engineering practice. In the second phase of the project, we designed teaching materials targeted at the problems, piloted the materials at four universities, and analyzed new student writing to assess the impact of the materials.
In particular, the poster will emphasize the assessment measures and results. We conduct four types of assessment measures: linguistic analyses (analyzing the frequency and effectiveness of features such as active/passive voice use, word choices, and sentence structure); genre analyses (assessing organization and content sequencing); errors in grammar and mechanics (frequency and gravity of errors); and holistic evaluations of effectiveness (as judged by an engineering practitioner). We also gather data about student reactions with surveys and interviews. Materials have been piloted in over 20 courses at 4 universities, and results have been positive for all assessment measures. Student comments demonstrate, in particular, that the new materials stimulate many students to reassess misconceptions they have about writing in engineering and that the students appreciate seeing examples of effective practitioner writing.
The poster will exemplify some of the changes we have seen in student writing and student reactions. It will also highlight the need for collaboration among engineering faculty, engineering practitioners, and writing specialists to make a project such as this successful.
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