Volunteer Expert Readers: Drawing on the University Community to Provide Professional Feedback for Engineering Student Writers

BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT

This paper reports on a 3-year study utilizing a novel approach to providing students in an introductory engineering course with feedback on drafts of course writing projects. In the Volunteer Expert Reader (VER) approach, students are matched with university alumni or employees who have the background to give feedback from the perspective of the target audience for their writing. Data suggest that VER can increase student engagement in engineering course writing assignments and may improve the quality of student writing. Factors most affecting successful implementation include whether student participation is required or optional and whether readers are matched with individual students or with a student team. Other factors may include the type of assignment, whether volunteers’ backgrounds are a good fit for the type of writing, and whether readers can respond to student drafts in a timely fashion.

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