SEED projects 2017 – Writing, Writing Everywhere
Learning by writing using scenario-based questions
Drs Tajammal Munir, Muhammad Nadeem, and Prof Brent Young (Faculty of Engineering)
In Engineering, there is a massive influx of international students who are not confident in speaking English and are therefore reluctant to talk and participate in discussion during class. This project aimed to improve these students’ class participation by minimising the effect of communication barriers. By integrating writing activities into the classroom, the team hoped to address issues of student engagement and develop students’ critical thinking and communication skills, which receive scant attention in Engineering courses.
We integrated writing exercises into the classroom activities. Students were asked scenario-based questions containing problems and concepts from real-world situations. The students were required to respond with one or more paragraphs using responses were recorded and assessed, and feedback was provided to help them during their learning process.
Students were reluctant to participate at the start of the semester. They were concerned about the amount of time they expected to spend on this writing activity. By the end of the semester, students began to like the idea of learning by writing, perhaps because they began to realise that this active learning helped them develop skills like critical thinking and effective communication with both general and technical audiences.
After talking to students, getting their feedback, and observing their engagement in the class, we concluded that the project had indeed contributed to students’ learning.
The project helped us to explore a better way to engage students who are shy and less active in class. Writing provided students with an alternative way to communicate with the class and develop their critical thinking and communication skills. This initiative will continue beyond the grant period.