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Conference Proceeding

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Undergraduate STEM writing skills, especially in engineering fields, need improvement. Yet students in engineering fields often do not value writing skills and underestimate the amount of writing they will do in their careers. University writing centers can be a helpful resource, but peer writing tutors need to be prepared for the differences between writing for the humanities and writing in STEM fields.

The Writing Assignment Tutor Training in STEM (WATTS) model is designed to improve tutor confidence and student writing. In this innovative training, the writing center supervisor collaborates with the STEM instructor to create a one-hour tutor-training where the tutors learn about the assignment content, vocabulary, and expectations. This multidisciplinary collaborative project builds on previous investigative work to determine the impact of WATTS on students, tutors, and faculty and to identify its mitigating and moderating effects. Data has been collected and analyzed from pre- and post- training surveys, interviews, and focus groups. In addition, the project studies WATTS effects on student writing pre- and post-tutoring. The team will use these results to develop a replicable, sustainable model for future expansion to other institutions and fields. By systematically collecting data and testing WATTS, the investigators will be able to identify its mitigating and moderating effects on different stakeholders and contribute valuable knowledge to STEM fields.

This approach assesses the elements of the model that have the most impact and the extent to which WATTS can be used to increase collaboration between engineering instructors and writing centers. The project enables the investigators to expand WATTS to additional engineering courses, test key factors with more instructors, refine the process, and position WATTS for dissemination to a broad audience.

As the cost of higher education rises, institutions are pressured to graduate students in four years and engineering curricula are becoming more complex. WATTS presents an economical, effective method to improve student writing in the discipline. Several factors indicate that it has the potential for broad dissemination and impact and will provide a foundation for a sustainable model for future work, as instructors become trainers for their colleagues, allowing additional ongoing expansion and implementation. WATTS serves as a model for institutions (large or small) to capitalize on existing infrastructure and resources to achieve large-scale improvements to undergraduate STEM writing while increasing interdisciplinary collaboration and institutional support.


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