Towards a Pro-active Technical Writing Curriculum


The process of refining my grading technique, initially in order to make an arduous task more manageable, has had the side effect of giving me a clearer perspective on how frequent intervention points improve student performance.  While the intense model I describe in case study three (above) is best suited to a small course in which the instructor and student have regular, face-to-face contact, such sequenced assignment structures can be adapted to large lecture situations as well.  The Internet is a convenient tool for managing these multiple points of intervention for us.

  1. Professor and LAC program collaborate on design of a sequenced writing assignment:

    • A statement of problem (1-page)

    • A proposed solution (1-1/2 page)
    • A different solution (1-1/2 page)
    • A report evaluating proposals submitted by four other students (5 pages)

  2. LAC distributes handout with suggested timeline and a preliminary grading checklist.

  3. Students write “statement of problem”and e-mail it to LAC staff.
  4. LAC grades submissions, requiring failing students to revise and resubmit.
  5. Students submit the first proposal for solving the problem (e-mail).
  6. LAC holds lecture-workshop geared to solving problems with the first proposals.
  7. Students submit a second proposal (e-mail).
  8. LAC collects all proposals, removes names from the submissions, and distributes four random proposals to each student (e-mail).
  9. Students write a 5-page assessment of the proposals they receive, selecting one as the best.
  10. LAC evaluates assignment.
  11. Professor returns assignment to student.
  12. Those students whose (anonymous) proposals were selected by their peers get an additional 5 points.  Students stand to gain 20 points.

Fig.: This revised writing assignment plan will require more effort from the engineering professor and the writing instructors, but the students stand to gain practical experience in evaluating options in situations where there is more than one plausible answer.

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Dennis G. Jerz