Collaborating to constructively align writing assignments on engineering master's programmes
Paper in proceedings, 2017
PROFiLE is a three-university project investigating the alleged incidental effects on English professional literacy in EMI-education. This sub-project in PROFiLE encompasses mapping writing assignment and writing development in two
international master’s programmes of engineering. The observational mapping stage evolved into an interventional study and material presented here stems from teachers at the programmes not being satisfied with texts written by students on courses on the programmes. This dissatisfaction prompted discussion with course managers and analysis of course material. These dialogues and analyses revealed
that instructions for assignments were vague, did not highlight teacher expectations, and that crucial features were not obvious to the students. The challenges involved e.g. selection of content, articulating the understanding of core theory, comments about how results should be interpreted, and the presentation of results in figures and tables.
Our results show that student texts improved in many ways at the same time as students considered the assignments relevant for assessing the expected learning outcomes. The sub-project shows how student writing in an EMI-context can be improved through collaboration between content and communication staff on the alignment of learning outcomes, activities, task descriptions, and disciplinary expectations.
The redesign processes also show that expectations change as students move into master’s level and that criteria and task descriptions have to capture expectations of disciplinary discourse that students have not necessarily been expected to meet before. Our studies show that teachers at master’s level may need support in the unpacking of these disciplinary expectations and when they get this type of support they are able to address challenges in such a way that it promotes student performance. In many mixed ICLHE and EMI contexts, one of the great challenges is therefore to unpack course and disciplinary expectations and to make these explicit and tangible to students.