Enhancement of Students' Technical Writing through a Combination of Classroom Activities
2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access Proceedings
Kamau Wright is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Hartford. He specializes in thermo-fluids and plasma engineering. His technical research interests include applications of high voltage plasma discharges to liquids and wastewaters; plasma decomposition of carbon dioxide; fouling prevention and mitigation for heat exchangers; oxidation of organic matter in water; and inactivation of bacteria using high voltage plasmas. Abstract The present study reports on
... tudy reports on strategies to improve engineering students' technical writing skills. The focus of the study is a sophomore level Mechanical Engineering Materials Lab course at University of Hartford. The course deals with experiments on mechanical properties of materials for which students are required to write group reports. Since the main focus of the course has been on the technical aspects, emphasis on writing has typically occurred only at the very beginning of the course, or as part of the feedback process for each lab report. While these elements are crucial, the present study sought to further develop students' technical writing skills throughout the semester by introducing a three-part strategy: (1) Focused instruction time -Allocating select times throughout the semester to focus on one section of lab report; (2) Reviewing samples as a groupdetermining which samples or attributes of samples were effective or ineffective; and (3) Peer review -Students reviewed each other's lab reports and gave feedback. The goal of focused instructional time and reviewing samples was to allow students to improve their writing skills by focusing on one section of lab report at a time, and thus learning the writing techniques more effectively. The peer-review part of the strategy was designed to draw students' close attention to quality of writing and increase their motivation to further develop writing skills. Students' lab reports were collected and evaluated using a rubric to assess the impact of the new teaching strategies on their technical writing skills. The other means of assessment was surveys conducted at the beginning and the end of the semester (pre and post surveys) to assess: (1) students' confidence in their technical writing skills; (2) students' ability to identify elements of good writing; (3) students' confidence in assessing the quality of a technical writing; and (4) students' feelings about the impact of the new strategies.