Getting the Right Stuff with the Write Stuff: Instructional Methods to Improve Writing in a First Year Engineering Course




Kulesz, Peggy
Ewing, David

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American Society for Engineering Education


Engineering Problem Solving (ENGR 1300) is a first year engineering course at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) designed to prepare students for the rigors of the engineering majors by introducing them to engineering skills such as problem solving, programming, and professional writing. This embedded writing element, taught by members of the UTA English Department, differentiates this first-year course from many others. Heeding the concern of faculty members regarding the students’ ability to write professionally, the curriculum committee for ENGR 1300 collaborated with the English Department to create an initial curriculum that tasked students with basic writing tasks such as professional emails, resumes, reports, and simple process papers. While these assignments seemed to answer some of the overall concerns of faculty, the wide range of reading and writing abilities we see among our students caused many to be frustrated because they could not complete these tasks, while others expressed resentment at having to replicate tasks they had mastered in high school. Writing instructors, too, noted their limited effectiveness when attempting to give meaningful feedback to large enrollment sections of students. To address these issues, the writing curriculum was revised to include the rhetorical précis assignments that build upon each other. These rhetorical précis assignments require students to assimilate large amounts of technical information and summarize it into a few, complex sentences. Using these assignments for our writing instruction not only allows writing faculty to give specific feedback even in large enrollment sections, but also challenges advanced writers, offers sentence level writing practice to less-prepared writers, requires critical thinking, and encourages complex synthesis of ideas. This paper will explore the effectiveness of this method for all writing levels and will attempt to identify and compare correlations between the students’ writing and overall grades in the course using these two methods.


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Kulesz, P., & Ewing, D. (2019, April), Getting the Right Stuff with the Write Stuff: Instructional Methods to Improve Writing in a First Year Engineering Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Gulf-Southwest Section Annual Meeting, AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, Austin, TX 78705.