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Innovation in linking and thinking: Critical thinking and writing skills of first-year engineering students in a learning community

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2 Author(s)
Damron, R.L. ; Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater, OK ; High, K.A.

For the engineering educator, implementing and integrating professional, institutional, and pedagogical goals into a course is complex and becomes more so when working with first-year students. These students are not always comfortable with problem-posing situations, and as tasks increase in complexity, so does the difficulty in thinking and writing. The question then arises as to how to help students become more comfortable with problem-posing as they write and think in a new academic community. This paper reports on a study integrating learning communities with problem-posing by using a model of critical thinking to structure writing assignments that require students to report about in-class, team-based activities applied to engineering concepts. The effectiveness of this approach was measured by assessing writing and critical thinking skills and surveying engineering and writing attitudes. Students in three sections of an Introduction to Engineering course were paired in two sections of English composition, and one section was not paired. The study also included several students in a female only composition class (total n=68). Results of the study show that mean scores of paired students were generally higher in both writing and critical thinking and significantly higher on one subscore of critical thinking. Paired course students also showed significant positive changes in viewing themselves as writers.

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference, 2008. FIE 2008. 38th Annual

Date of Conference:

22-25 Oct. 2008