Towards a Pro-active Technical Writing Curriculum


Writing instructors can do their job best when they have regular contact with students early in the writing process (this is accepted as common knowledge in the field of composition studies).  The Language Across the Curriculum Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering works frequently with engineering professors, designing assignments and assigning grades.  This paper is a subjective evaluation of my own pedagogical practice within this system, outlining the limits of my efforts to communicate, through corrective grading, the writing instruction that our students need.  With committed involvement from engineering professors and continued support for LAC support programs, we can create a learning environment in which students receive feedback from an active, involved LAC instructor at several stages during the writing process.  The result should be not only better writing, but also better writers.   A recent analysis of the role of industry in engineering writing states, “The engineer must believe that the effort of writing will be rewarded,” and suggests increasing writer motivation through mentor­ship and frequent opportunities for positive feedback [1].  Such suggestions should surely apply to students as well.

When I grade stacks of undergraduate engineering writing term assignments, however, I usually feel like I am filling out toe tags in a morgue.  Will the next of kin even bother to claim the claim the corpses and give them a proper burial?  Could I have done something to prevent the carnage?

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Dennis G. Jerz