(130b) Teaching Technical Writing to Chemical Engineers
AIChE Annual Meeting
Monday, November 8, 2021 - 12:50pm to 1:10pm
Methods for teaching technical writing vary between institutions and are often a function of time and resource. A variety of formats (e.g. video tutorials, dedicated writing instructors) and methods (e.g. peer evaluation, instructor feedback, provision of sample reports) have been described for teaching writing, yet much of the literature focuses on 1st year Chemistry and Physics lab courses. Building upon this literature, we designed an intervention that targeted 3rd year Chemical Engineering students enrolled in a Unit Operations Lab. The intervention used a step-wise scaffold approach to teach the basic elements of writing a full technical report. Students wrote a series of brief individual memorandum that introduced these basic elements guided by detailed grading rubrics and documentation describing each report element. We hypothesized that this step-wise intervention would improve the overall quality of student technical writing and to test this hypothesis we compared the writing performance between two groups of students â a control group (n=30) (pre-intervention) and an experimental group (n=30) (post-intervention). An established writing assessment tool was used to analyze writing samples, and our results showed a statistically significant improvement in writing quality for the experimental group compared to the control group, as well as a statistically significant improvement in writing quality over time within the experimental group (i.e. pre/post mid-term). Our intervention improved the quality of studentsâ written assessments and did so without increasing the workload for student nor instructor alike. The use of memorandum (instead of full technical reports) decreased the overall grading burden on instructors and demonstrated that improvements to pedagogy do not necessarily need to be additive. This âless is moreâ philosophy has significant implications for how engineering skills can be taught, and this presentation will also discuss how we are adapting skills-development instruction elsewhere in the department.