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Open-Ended Design Writing Prompts

Summary:

This set of OWL resources aims to help engineering instructors and TAs create and assess a variety of short, low-overhead writing exercises for use in engineering courses. The primary focus here is on “writing to learn” assignments, which leverage writing to improve students’ conceptual understanding of technical concepts.

Writing exercises can be used in engineering courses to promote the deeper learning of technical material and build students’ writing skills. Writing in engineering courses gives students practice in articulating engineering concepts to different audiences and in engaging with technical communication genres. However, engineering instructors and TAs often struggle to incorporate writing into engineering classes due to a variety of challenges, including class size and the amount of time it takes to grade writing assignments. Additionally, the teaching of writing is an entire discipline of study with its own theories and practices that may not be accessible to engineering educators.

Contributors:Lindsey Macdonald
Last Edited: 2017-11-06 10:27:25

Description: For this assignment, students must design a device or solution associated with a stated design objective. The writing component of the assignment lies in the explanation of the design, often in the form of a design manual or report.

When useful: Design prompts challenge students to both be creative as they invent their own designs and engage with complex technical content as they explain their designs.

Audience considerations: Instructors or TAs may ask students to envision their audience as fellow engineers who must either build or work with their design.

Assignment length: Can range from one page to several pages

Connection to “writing to learn”: If students are writing to other engineers, they will have to engage with technical terminology and learn how to use it within technical communication genres intended for experts in the field.

Examples:

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