asee2015-one-on-onesession-mfgdiv_3_10_15_final_submission_wsu.pdf

The writing program at wsu is representative of the

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The writing program at WSU is representative of the kinds institutional writing programs that have developed in response to the Writing in the Disciplines (WID) movement. The WID movement, too, has contributed to pedagogical research on lab report writing. The research in engineering education mostly addresses pedagogical strategies and best practices for promoting writing to learn principles. Often, these studies tend to focus on the efficacies of many instructional tools. These tools include tutoring support and automated feedback [3], peer evaluations [5,6], and self-evaluations [7], as well as the implementation of new instructional models such as the HPL (How People Learn) approach [4] and an inquiry-based approach [8], and the development of writing assessment standards and their implementations [9-11]. Most these studies implicitly rely on a “modes” approach, an approach that emphasizes formulas and templates. This approach assumes writing to be a static, mechanical skill [12]. In addition, these approaches did not consider the role of transfer in the development of student writing skills that is, how students’ past experience in writing during their general education courses such as a first- year composition course influence their writing-in-the-major experiences. In our institution, for
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example, students in engineering have already have been introduced to the rhetorical situation (writer, purpose, audience, and context), several generic academic genres, and common features of academic writing (developing theses, manipulating sources, using conventions, etc) during first-year composition courses. Engineering students are introduced to this rhetorical approach to writing, an approach that views writing as a dynamic and inventive process that occurs within a rhetorical situation and produces genres, before entering courses in the major. Therefore, we believe that engineering students’ writing performances would be significantly improved when transforming engineering writing pedagogy into a rhetorical-based approach to support their writing experience across the disciplines. This interdisciplinary study focuses on a particular instance of writing in engineering lab reports assigned in entry-level engineering laboratory courses. While engineering undergraduate students are required to complete writing assignments in many genres, the lab report is often the very first genre within the engineering curriculum that they are assigned after completing their first-year composition course. Therefore, stude nts’ experiences with writing lab reports act as an introduction to writing in the discipline of engineering and its attending genres and genre expectations. This is an innovative pedagogical approach because it emphasizes engineering lab reports as a “gat e- way” genre into writing in engineering. Therefore, the objective of this study is to provide empirical data on how addressing the rhetorical features of lab reports helped improve students’ lab report writing performance.
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