Engineering faculty on writing: What they think and what they want
Trellinger, N.M., B.K. Jesiek, C.D. Troy, J. Boyd, and R.R. Essig In Proceedings of the 2016 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, New Orleans, LA, June 26-29, 2016 PDF Online Article
Writing has been identified as an important skill for engineers, and while faculty generally agree that writing should be included in the engineering classroom, there are many barriers that may discourage faculty to do so. This survey explored how faculty are including writing in their classes, what barriers they face, and also asks faculty what resources they would like so that the inclusion of writing could be more realistic and feasible.
In terms of their approaches to incorporating writing in their courses, a majority of respondents reported sometimes or frequently assigning writing in the following types of assignments: project documentation, written explanations of homework, and short-answer questions on tests and quizzes. A majority of respondents also reported frequent use of grading rubrics for writing, as well as specifying the audiences for whom students should target their writing.
Respondents identified their top challenges to including writing in their courses, including large enrollments, lack of time, and lack of teaching assistants competent to assess writing. To address these challenges, the most favored suggestion was having teaching assistants trained to assess writing, followed by expanding the availability of writing resources for faculty and students. Additionally, the issue of student preparation was brought up on numerous occasions; faculty stated that previous negative experiences with student writing hindered faculty from including writing assignments in their courses.
In a perfect world, all faculty would have teaching assistants that were trained in teaching engineering writing. However, other more realistic resources include providing rubrics and sample work on an accessible and easy to use website. This paper reports on the faculty survey about writing and also how it relates the larger project that includes providing these important resources to faculty.