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Unformatted text preview: Sequential Development of Writing Skills Richard Hale, Aerospace Engineering Aerospace Engineering (AE) students use writing in a three-course sequence to develop critical thinking, reflective design, analysis, and communication skills. OVERVIEW Background Articulating thinking through writing AE sophomore and junior students take a three-course sequence studying Design, Analysis, and Manufacturing. When I first began teaching these courses, I had just arrived at KU from a position in industry. I knew students needed more than just techniques to be successful in their careers, and I decided that incorporating writing across the sequence would be the best means to help them gain a deep understanding of the material. Through writing they could develop critical thinking, reflective design, analysis, and communication skills. The students use a variety of writing projects in these courses. Some are individual, some are group, some are short reports, others are on-line presentations, and some are cumulative across a semester. The students write for different audiences; for instance, a group of engineers would expect a passive style heavy on technical details while consumers would expect an active voice that is less detailed and provides more reasons for choices. I believe that the writing forces students to make decisions, explain those decisions, and communicate their decisions in an appropriate manner. The learning becomes deeper when they have to articulate their thinking through writing. Implementation How I approached the project One central project—an Antarctic remote sensing device that measures the effects of global warming on the polar ice cap—provides the scenario for the student work across the three courses. In each course, I define the basics and the students fill in the details based on the system that they are currently studying. The students explain their work through a variety of writing projects. In AE 421, they write both a one-page marketing paper and create a design group report that often exceeds 100 pages. The AE 508 paper is a group technical report. The students use a virtual medium in AE 510 to create a presentation. By varying the type of project, I provide students with an opportunity to analyze, communicate, and defend their decision-making process. Observations Broader and deeper understanding The work that AE students do in my three-course sequence reassures me of the benefits that come from this writing-intensive work. These sophomore and junior students do work that goes beyond what is usually expected at this level. By writing about their decisions, they have to demonstrate understanding that does not show up were they to only answer sample equations, the work product typically required from similar courses....
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This note was uploaded on 01/01/2012 for the course AOE 5984 taught by Professor Devenport during the Fall '08 term at Virginia Tech.
- Fall '08