Improving student writing skills using a scaffolded approach

Becky Selwyn, Irene Renaud-Assemat, Irina Lazar, Joel Ross

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

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Writing is a professional skill required by graduate engineers. Many students arrive at university with poor writing skills, partly stemming from a lack of experience. During an engineering degree, students are expected to produce written reports (e.g. describing practical laboratory exercises) but are often not taught how to.

We trialled a scaffolded approach with 1st year students, starting with an introductory seminar covering the basics of report writing (including contents, presentation, and examples). Students were provided with detailed supporting guidelines, and an overview of the mark scheme used in assessment. Over the course of two terms, five practical laboratories were carried out. After each laboratory, students completed a written report, building up from only a Results section, through to a full report. Feedback was given for each report before the next report was written, so that students could use the feedback to improve their future work. Students were also encouraged to ask for specific feedback on areas they identified at the end of each report.

We hypothesise that this approach will:
1. Help develop students as self-regulated learners, playing an active role in the feedback process by using a dialogic and feedforward approach.
2. Improve attainment by allowing students more opportunities to practice their writing skills.
3. Improve consistency in teaching and assessment across five key practical laboratory exercises.

Marks for each section and report have been monitored, and students have been surveyed throughout the process. The results will be presented in this paper.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 7th International Symposium for Engineering Education (ISEE 2018)
Place of PublicationUCL, London
PublisherUniversity College London
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2018

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Education Research Group


  • writing skills
  • scaffolded approach
  • engagement
  • feedback

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