Towards a Pro-active Technical Writing Curriculum

Originally published in the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering Forum, May 1998.
Dennis G. Jerz, Ph.D. candidate, University of Toronto; Instructor, Engineering Writing Centre
HTML posted April 5, 2000.


This paper is a position statement, suggesting methods to improve student response to writing instruction [in the undergraduate engineering at the University of Toronto].  In a language-across-the-curriculum (LAC) program, the writing instructor has limited access to students.  When the most direct contact comes after the student has already finished the assignment (that is, during grading) the student has no opportunity to apply the lessons.  Streamlining and refining the grading process through standard checklists helps students understand the feedback, but does not improve their writing.  This paper describes the use of open-ended questions designed not to pass judgement but rather to instruct (“formative evaluation”) and assignments that depend on multiple points of interaction between student and instructor (“sequenced assignments”) as approaches to solving the problem.  The recommendation section offers plans for two assignments utilizing these principles.  Enhanced communication between student and writing instructor does not appreciably increase the engineering professor’s workload, and creative use of the Internet can help manage the writing instructor’s work.  At any rate, such work is part of the mission of a healthy LAC program.

  1. Introduction
  2. Background
  3. Problem
  4. Analysis
  5. Recommendations
  6. Conclusions
  7. References

Dennis G. Jerz