Exploring Engineering instructors' views about writing and online tools to support communication in Engineering

Sarah K. Howard, Maryam Khosronejad, Rafael A. Calvo
2016 European Journal of Engineering Education  
To be fully prepared for the professional workplace, Engineering students need to be able to effectively communicate. However, there has been growing concern in the field about students' preparedness for this aspect of their future work. It is argued that online writing tools, to engage numbers of students in the writing process, can support feedback on and development of writing in engineering on a larger scale. Through interviews and questionnaires, this study explores engineering academics'
more » ... erceptions of writing to better understand how online writing tools may be integrated into their teaching. Results suggest writing is viewed positively in the discipline, but it is not believed to be essential to success in engineering. Online writing tools were believed to support a larger number of students, but low knowledge of the tools limited academics' understanding of their usefulness in teaching and learning. Implications for innovation in undergraduate teaching are discussed. to possible use of online writing tools, to support communication and writing development in undergraduate Engineering. In recent years, universities have introduced a range of online tools, such as TurnItIn and Moodle, with the capacity and functionality to support communication and writing development. However, little is actually known about how engineering academics conceive of writing and written assessments, and therefore how and why they may adopt online writing tools in their practice. This paper argues that affordances of online tools can support increased writing and communication in undergraduate engineering subjects. To explore this, we first present a discussion of current research on writing in undergraduate engineering, online writing tools and some common affordances. Analysis draws on data collected from engineering academics at three Australian universities, through semi-structured interviews and online questionnaires between 2013 and 2014. Data was first inductively analyzed using a repertory grid method (RGT) to identify academics' perceptions of writing through personal constructs (Fransella, Bell, and Bannister 2004) . Using extracted RGT constructs and drawing on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) conceptual framework of Ease of Use, Usability and Attitudes, two academics' beliefs about the use of written assessments and relation to online writing tools are explored to illustrate different views and likelihood of adopting online writing tools. Implications for future research and strategies for universities will be discussed. Writing in Engineering Educators have long proposed that writing is a powerful way of learning (Emig 1977) and continued to advocate for its wider adoption across curriculum (Carter, Ferzli, and Wiebe 2007; Wheeler and McDonald, 2000) . Writing is a legitimate practice in itself, but also provides opportunities to enhance generic thinking skills and conceptual understanding in discipline areas
doi:10.1080/03043797.2016.1228612 fatcat:5lue63fhc5cl7aazmot76vyxbi