Academic Writing And Ieees Standards Education Essay

Published: 2021-06-30 12:15:05
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ABSTRACT
Academic writing in English in our context is a significant aspect that can be innovative using a convergence model of writing stages along with collaborative work. For that reason, this project aimed at analyzing how collaborative work relates to undergraduate Electronics students’ academic writing development in English as a foreign language at Santo Tomas University, Tunja, Colombia, following some specific writing stages. Field notes, students’ artifacts and semi-structured interview were the instruments used to gather information. Data analysis showed that writing is achievable if students can follow stages and receive feedback from the teacher. Collaborative work allowed to write research articles in an easy and dynamic way.
Key Words: Academic writing, collaborative word, feedback.
Resumen
Los escritos académicos en Inglés para nuestro contexto representan un aspecto significativo que puede ser innovador, usando un modelo de convergencia en las etapas de la escritura a través del trabajo colaborativo. Por esta razón, este proyecto busca analizar como dicho trabajo colaborativo se relaciona con los escritos académicos que desarrollan en Inglés los estudiantes de pregrado de Ingeniería Electrónica en la universidad Santo Tomás de Tunja, Colombia, siguiendo etapas específicas de escritura. Apuntes, escritos hechos por los estudiantes y entrevistas semi - estructuradas fueron los instrumentos usados para la recolección de la información. El análisis de datos muestra que la escritura es viable si los estudiantes siguen las etapas y reciben retroalimentación dada por el profesor. El trabajo colaborativo permitió la escritura de artículos de investigación de una forma fácil y dinámica.
Palabras claves: escritos académicos, trabajo colaborativo y retroalimentación.
INTRODUCTION
This article aims at sharing the results of a research project based on collaborative work as a way for writing research articles with undergraduate electronic students at Universidad Santo Tomas, This project was carried out from 2011 until 2012.
Teaching writing in a foreign language, in this case English is not an easy mission and the necessity to write research articles in English in order to be socialized in other institutions or published in magazines is a big challenge. Based on the previous statements, this current research proposed to observe and explore the way students developed academic writing abilities at a private university in Tunja.
The proposal was established on a pedagogical intervention in which collaborative work was applied in the Electronics Engineering program to a group of undergraduate students in their tenth semester. These students wrote research articles using topics related to their majors. The idea was to help participants find an enjoyable way to write research articles and to provide them with the appropriate writing input by following specific stages, modified according to the Hyland Model and the standards of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Implementing collaborative work strategies was another goal of the intervention.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
After applying a questionnaire and a written exercise to Electronics Engineering students, characteristics of their written production in English as a foreign language were identified (See Appendix # 1). The analysis of those instruments showed that students recognized and used some language structures and vocabulary in English. They also evidenced to enjoy working in groups because they can couldn´t achieve academic goals more easily as a team. The participants in this project also mentioned that they wanted to write academic papers, such as research articles, in order to improve their writing skills.
The written diagnosis exercise applied to the students reflected that when they read a text related to Basic Bioinstrumentation Systems, they wrote the summary with their own words based on this material. This written exercise allowed us me to examine the way that learners used language, in terms of form and function, and what kind of technical vocabulary in English they dominated. When students created their written exercises, there were evidences when students were struggling with several items of writing such as incoherent sentences, incorrect grammatical structures, lack of connectors and punctuation marks used, and the limited use of technical vocabulary, among others. This analysis showed that most of the students had difficulties in academic writing
Based on the previous aspects, the research question that guided this project was as follows:
What does collaborative work among tenth semester Electronics Engineering students at USTA inform us about their academic writing development?
Research Setting and Participants:
Context
This research project took place at Santo Tomas University in Tunja (USTA), a private Catholic university in Colombia. This institution was created in 1996 in Tunja and aims at promoting the integral education of its students and staff based on the principles proposed by Santo Tomás de Aquino. This university has around 2500 students from several cities and towns throughout Colombia. English as a foreign language is a mandatory subject in all academic programs at the university and constitutes a prerequisite for the attainment of any degree. Students take five obligatory levels of English.
Participants
The selected participants were a group of nine students in their tenth semester in the Electronics Engineering Faculty at USTA: five men and four women. These students were not attending English classes because they had already finished the five required language levels. The main criterion for selecting ESP students was the kind of English program they had experienced. Besides, the criteria for selecting the participants came from the needs analysis and the similar profile and needs regarding writing in English.
Engineer’s Role
An Electronics Engineer played very significant roles along this project when he was helping students to use correct technical vocabulary, proper IEEE standards and verifying the appropriate contents of the article. He was a great support in this project sharing meaningful ideas which were considering by students within their written compositions.
Researcher Role
As researchers, we were participants observers in the whole process and were in charge of collecting data, watching interactions, taking notes, evaluating and reflecting about the use of materials and the activities implemented. I We focused my our attention on writing activities, - guiding the implementation process in the research project.
LITERATURE REVIEW
In this research, the main concern was to identify what collaborative work, among students from Electronics Engineering, informeds us about their academic writing development. In order to achieve this goal, it was necessary to contemplate five key issues: the definition of academic writing (research articles) in the current project, and, English for specific purposes (ESP). It was important to clarify, how collaborative work might be is integrated into the development of this proposal, what the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) standards are, and why feedback is important in this research.
Academic Writing and IEEE’s Standards
Nowadays, writing is a skill that is becoming essential in education, because students and teachers share their ideas or academic outcomes through articles, books, and essays, among others. Checkett (2006), states that being able to write well and express yourself will help you throughout the rest of your life. There are three situations in which the human being will find himself most often: school, work and home. It makes sense, then, that the writing is a priority skill that needs to be developed in several contexts. For instance, when students start their studies in a university, they need to write different types of academic papers as a way to share knowledge with others.
Most people think of writing as a complex manner of expressing ideas, and it is considered one of the less important skills to be developed during the process of teaching and learning a foreign language because it demands a lot of time. Based on Genesee Genese (1994), "writing is a language process in which the individual creates meaning by using symbols to construct a written text." (p. 130). Besides, when people work on writing, it is necessary to recognize that it requires a great deal of time from students and teachers. Thus, the writing process plays an important role in the educational context because this skill allows to link the gap we have had between writing and others skills in EFL teaching in order to know how to teach writing at a high level (university) and make learners to be competent in this language skill.
Many definitions of writing skills agree on the importance of the ability to produce meaning. Coryel (2008) affirms, "Writing is also a valuable tool for learning. When you write you must think extensively about your subject. When you write, you are likely to make new connections that you might not have made if you had not written about the subject." (p. 5). Thus, we believe that it is essential to consider writing a very important process to Electronics Engineering students in order to achieve their academic goals. For instance, when students finish a research project, they require to share their outcomes through research articles. In the current project, students need to have a clear definition of what academic writing was is about and the specific guidelines for creating their own articles based on the standards of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Considering these aspects this, I we will refer to some definitions of academic writing.
Academic writing is stressed as a formal means of sharing knowledge for higher education students. Clenton (2005) explained academic writing as the formal use of language in terms of form and function. This definition suited one of the objectives of the present study, because, based on the diagnosis conducted, the participants felt the necessity to improve their written compositions in a formal way in order to share their research projects and their viewpoints in an academic context. It is necessary to realize that there are many ways that students can approach writing academic papers. We we believe as a language teacher In our role as language teachers, we believe that most of the times, the writing process is achieved bearing in mind the way as a professor can identify and correct mistakes based on the correction of mistakes by the teacher, and that an educator is someone who is in charge of providing scores according to the number of mistakes. and This situation happens in many contexts because perhaps teachers teach in the same traditional ways. I We considered in this research project the writing processes of students rather that the final product. the process in students’ articles rather than the final product, and I We highlighted their academic writing no matter if they make made a lot of mistakes.
When a human being focuses his attention on academic writing, there are some essential characteristics that need to be considered, such as dedication and permanent effort. Rodriguez (2004), affirms that the "academic writing process needs knowledge of forms and functions, but it also requires assuming academic commitment, responsibility and discipline." Based on this definition, we would say that the use of collaborative work might produce positive interdependence that will would allow students to become aware of their responsibility to achieve a common goal and to work hard on the academic aspects. Student – researchers need to be provided them the chance to share their research outcomes with other institutions in order for them and giving them the opportunity to play an active role in an academic community. For instance, when students work in groups, each member plays different roles that are necessary to achieve common goals. In this sense, each participant may assume the tasks assigned with responsibility and commitment,; otherwise, the objectives of the group might not be achieved successfully. Thus, academic writing demands time, effort and permanent discipline.
During the process of creating a research article, there are different standards, like APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA, and, in the case of Electronics Engineers, IEEE standards. The standards may help writers clarify the structure of a document, the way to cite an author, or the style of the paper. In this study it was relevant to analyze the IEEE standards since the population with which this study was conducted were engineers. In this way, relevant technical vocabulary could be exchanged. and as one of the way to make possible to exchange technical knowledge with high quality and great impact. Bearing these standards in mind, the participants of this study illustrated the elements that an academic research paper might include: title, abstract, introduction, material and methods, data analysis, conclusions and references. We considered that it is was necessary to let electronics students know how to apply the IEEE standards correctly because of in this way their academic papers can could be understandable and well organized.
In order to help undergraduate Electronics Engineering students grow academically and professionally and to provide them with a chance to work collaboratively, a convergence diagram was created based on the writing stages proposed by Hyland (2003) and standards of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). This model was has been created because it synthesized the aspects that Electronics Engineering students need to follow in terms of writing research articles including the IEEE standards and cooperative work considered as one of the main constructs construction of this project.
Hyland (2003) points out that the writing process needs to develop is needed to develop "student’s abilities to plan a rhetorical problem, propose and evaluate solutions." He stated some stages to be followed in the writing process: First, selection of the topic by teachers or students; prewriting, including brainstorming and note taking; composing, putting ideas on paper; response to draft, the process in which teachers or peers comment on students’ ideas; revision, which includes refining ideas; followed by response to revisions, when the teachers respond to ideas, organization and style; then, proofreading and editing that include checking and correcting structures, evaluation, during which teachers evaluate the progress throughout the process; and publishing, which concerns circulation or presentation. The chart below display the stages described above.
Chart #1: Model of the writing process Hyland (2003).
Selection of topic
Prewriting
Composing
Response to draft
Revising
Respond to revisions
Evaluation
Proofreading and Editing
Publishing
After analyzing the model proposed by Hyland, it can be said that writing is a process that involves involved correct grammatical structures, cohesion, coherence and other essential aspects such as positive attitude, selection of correct words, among others. Besides, these aspects can be applied through practice of the writing stages.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. IEEE and its members inspire the global community through IEEE's highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and professional and educational activities. IEEE provides useful guidelines to be followed for Electronics Engineers when they want to publish research outcomes. Writing and submitting papers for publication is an essential aspect for Electronics Engineers and for undergraduate Electronics Engineering students. Depending on how the paper is to be published, there are several typesetting formats for various purposes. It is frustrating and time–consuming to have to manually format a paper to follow all the guidelines, so a good solution is to have the formatting done automatically.
Thus, considering the model proposed by Hyland (2003) and the stages stated by IEEE standards, it was decided to adapt a new model that included all the stages and synthesized the aspects that Electronics Engineering students need to follow in terms of writing research articles. The new model simplifies the stages proposed by Hyland, as well as the rules of the IEEE, into four vigorous stages and also including cooperative work because it is a strong construction for this project. Furthermore, given the time students had for the project, it was appropriate to follow the new model. Besides, the new model alloweds students to advance their compositions because it is a process that requires continual improvement. The new model will be presented as follows:
Convergence of Writing Stages
This is a new model based on Hyland (2003) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards (IEEE).
Image #1: Convergence Model of Writing Stages
The name of this new model, Convergence of Writing Stages, was given for several reasons. First of all, the word "convergence" means the linking of two or more things that approach one specific goal. The image used resembles a snail (See Image #1), because each one of the stages is subsequent, meaning the first stage supports the next stages. The participants of this project were trying to write their research articles following the stages proposed during the several implemented workshops., because wWhen they began to generate ideas (the first stage) and to organize the paragraphs (second stage), they found mistakes: incorrect sentence order, wrong spelling, etc. (third stage). All of these mistakes allowed them to rewrite high quality academic papers and to achieve a common goal (the final stage). The participants linked all the stages mentioned before to focus their attention on a common purpose. This model can be used each time the Electronics Engineering participants set out to write a research article, because the students will find a clear guide in the proposed stages and the specific process they need to use in order to write research outcomes based on the IEEE’s standards.
Another important reason for creating this model was because every one of the stages during the process of writing research articles was based on collaborative work, allowing students to find an easy way to understand how to write academic papers. Besides, the participants were working in small groups which achieved a common purpose. Each one of the implemented workshops encouraged the participants to take on different work roles, such as leaders, harmonizers, facilitators, and compromisers, among others. It was very useful because the students helped each other and learned new things from their partners without pressure from the teacher. This study created a positive pedagogical tool for the researcher because the participants were motivated to write in groups. Since the beginning of the development of the first stage, the students were working collaboratively considering the strategies of collaborative work that are explained in the next chapters. In this way, the new model made a big contribution in relation to the other models mentioned before. The new model is composed of the following stages:
First stage; Generating Ideas: when students give ideas and opinions in order to select the topic on which to work.
Second stage; Drafting: in this stage, students are able to put ideas on paper.
Third stage; Refining and Editing: when students have received feedback and comments from the teacher in order to organize the information well which help students check their mistakes and correct themselves.
Last stage; Final Paper, Improving Quality: teachers and students carefully check the final documents before delivering them to be published.
The Electronics Engineering students began to follow the stages above using different activities such as brainstorming, organizing ideas, drafting, editing drafts and coming to agreements on the final product: the research article. The students were positive and enthusiastic when they faced each one of the stages proposed, even if the writing process was not simple because it required training, practice and careful planning to promote effective communication among the participants who were working in groups the entire time. The students expected to work collaboratively and to gain self-confidence through their writing tasks, and it gave them the chance to be imaginative in each one of the activities, such as generating ideas based on a technical picture. They were animated when they shared their ideas individually and when their ideas were accepted by all the members of the group and were incorporated into the written document. When the Electronics Engineering students developed the stages mentioned in the model above, they interacted in groups sharing their concerns and helping each other deal with specific problems, such as technical word choice, grammar or syntax.
The workshop participants recognized the importance of selecting appropriate topics for the level and interest of the students. In this case, they were writing about issues related to Biomedicine, one of the subjects they liked. They enjoyed the activities and produced good outcomes because they were interested in writing about their favorite Electronics Engineering topics, such as robotics and prototypes (See Appendix #4). In addition, the activities included in the workshops were useful because the participants followed the four proposed writing stages, and the collaboration increased self-confidence, promoted individual participation and encouraged the students to produce their research articles. The final production was meaningful for them and for the researcher because these goals were more difficult to achieve when students worked individually. Collaborative work allowed students to learn from each other, to understand that writing in English was doable by following instructions and that it could be an enjoyable task and a way to communicate ideas in an academic context.
To conclude this topic about academic writing, whatever forms your writing takes, and wherever you use it, you must learn to write well. Your writing for school, work, studies or professional field will have to express your ideas clearly. Organizing and developing your writing to achieve this clarity is one of the most important skills you can learn. Besides, researchers publish to share ideas and results with colleagues and that is what undergraduate Electronics Engineering students need to do in order to publish their research outcomes. because, Thus, in this way, they will be able to leave a record of research which can be added to by others. Also, they might receive recognition for ideas and results and attention from others in the area of Electronics Engineering research. Finally, a focus should be placed on the development of skills to write research articles academically, as was the case in this research. Although all people have the capacity to write, it is necessary to practice so that we notice our mistakes and our strengths.
Bearing in mind the purpose of this proposal: to analyze how collaborative work relates to undergraduate Electronics Engineering students’ academic writing development in English as a foreign language, and considering the topics about biomedical instrumentation, it is important to mention what English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is.
English for Specific Purposes (ESP)
Currently, the process of teaching English as a foreign language is focused in on many parts of the world towards English for Specific Purposes (ESP), defined as the teaching of English used in academic studies or professional purposes, which tries to identify specific needs of the learners. Duan (2005) defined ESP as a pedagogy in which the syllabus, contents and methods are determined according to the needs of learners’ specialized subjects. ESP is designed for specific areas; it is used in specific teaching situations and with different methodologies. Students who want to learn ESP should have basic knowledge about English and previous knowledge of their disciplines, because ESP is generally designed for intermediate and/or to advanced students. For instance, at USTA, all the students who belong to the different academic programs attend five English levels, and the last one is based on ESP, because it focuses on learners’ specialized subjects where the contents are organized according to the students’ needs. Thus, the participants of this project have already finished these levels of English and they have previous knowledge about their specialized subjects in English. It would be hard to work with students who do not have basic knowledge of the English language and some technical vocabulary, an important reason to include ESP during the development of this proposal.
In addition, there are different types of ESP. Carter (1983) established three types of ESP: English with Specific Topics, English for Academic and Occupational Purposes and English as a Restricted Language. Thus, the language used by a pilot is a clear example of English as a Restricted Language. English for Academic and Occupational Purposes is required in different contexts, for instance, in science, technology, business and accounting, among others. Furthermore, the emphasis of English with Specific Topics shifts from purpose to topic, and this kind of language is concerned with anticipated future English needs. For example, a doctor requires English for postgraduate reading studies, to attend lectures or to study at foreign institutions. In this project, undergraduate Electronics Engineering students were encouraged to use technical English because their final outcome was a research article based on Electronics Engineering issues.
In conclusion, ESP promotes the construction of knowledge in an individual in a cooperative way, because ESP students might look for information from different sources such as magazines and many printed documents. and t The exercises the participants of this study they were developing helped them to work in groups, to take advantage of several academic materials and to construct knowledge from different people. ESP’s purposes allowed the researcher to make connection with collaborative work; and it is essential to explain what collaborative work is about.
Collaborative Work
Many professional fields require achieving goals through collaborative work; in this case most of the research projects carried out by Electronics Engineers at USTA were developed through teamwork. According to Artz and Newman (1990), collaborative work is seen as a small group of people who work as a team to solve a problem, complete a task or achieve a common goal. This definition is was important in my this project because students were working together during the process of writing in order to fulfill a specific academic purpose. They faced some situations in which they discussed academic topics, found solutions to specific problems, made decisions, established agreements and disagreements. and, Finally, they created a product that was related to the composition of research articles, which is considered a positive social outcome.
Furthermore, there were several roles that Electronics Engineering students held during the writing process throughout the workshops applied in this research, such as: leader, encourager, harmonizer, compromiser, facilitator and listener. It is useful to include the definitions of these roles. Montecino and Williams (2001) state that when people work together, they have to recognize the several group roles.
The workshops that were applied allowed students to be involved in different roles giving the participants the opportunity to work collaboratively, to generate ideas, to establish relationships among themselves and to create a positive atmosphere linking the previous knowledge they had about Biomedicine and English, in terms of grammar, vocabulary and spelling, during their writing process. In some exercises they were facilitators or listeners or leaders in order to write a research article about biomedical issues. Besides, Kessler (1992), points out that in cooperative work, "the teacher plays a crucial role to monitor the students’ work or impart collaborative skills to the students." This statement is relevant to the progress of this project for the reason that the teacher developed an important role in the writing process because she or he was the person they were the ones who could check the students’ improvement and made sure the students understood what to do and how to do it.
In conclusion, collaborative work is a way to enrich students learning process, "learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Sharing one’s ideas and responding to others’ improves thinking and deepens understanding" Gerdy (1998). The current project indicated that the incorporation of collaborative work into the process of learning to write is an effective strategy to encourage students to improve their achievements in writing. Besides, I we believe that collaborative work help undergraduate students to be prepare for future jobs where they have to work with others. In my setting (USTA), I we perceived that, for instance, most research projects are written collaboratively. In addition, collaborative work is one of the strongest most strongly strategy used in the process of learning and teaching English as a foreign language at USTA, where students need to be the center of the class and need to interact with their classmates as much as possible. In my our opinion, collaborative work might be a useful strategy to keep students motivated because it promotes individual and group participation.
During the research article writing process it was necessary to provide Electronics Engineering students with feedback in order to let them know their mistakes. For that reason, it was important to make students familiar with an error chat that guided them in checking their written papers. The participants of this study considered the feedback process as a way to improve their compositions and a manner of receiving teacher contributions during the different workshops developed, which is why it is necessary to explain feedback.
Feedback
The process of teaching writing in English as a foreign language to native Spanish-speaking learners is a hard task, because the students perceive writing as a difficult process in their educational context. Based on this perception, language teachers have a large responsibility to encourage students to express their ideas in a written way. Teachers can encourage students by ensuring that students receive clear input about the writing process, when there is an appropriate work atmosphere and enough time to provide comments on students’ compositions and support them in the process of developing this skill. For instance, in the university context (USTA) when students develop writing activities, they do them under pressure and many times feel frustrated because when they receive feedback, their written papers are full of negative comments in red ink. This negative feedback can confuse students because maybe they do not understand what the mistake is or how to correct the composition. Thus, feedback played an important role in the process of writing in English as a foreign language.
Feedback is one of the most common strategies teachers use to correct students’ performance. Zeus and Skiffington (2000) define feedback as the way people give opinions or assess the behavior of someone. Feedback is an essential part in the development of this project, because through this tool the learners attained successful outcomes and achieved their academic goals in terms of writing research articles. In this study, feedback became a dialogue or interaction between the students and teachers. In this sense, the researchers of this current project used a specific strategy, consisting of the use of an error correction code (See Appendix # 9). This error correction code was a chart with different symbols, each with its related own meaning. When students found a symbol from the chart in their research articles, they were able to identify the error they had made. They discovered what their mistakes were, and then they corrected them by themselves, because the students were familiar with the use of the codes. This strategy allowed the participants of this project to be aware of their mistakes and to analyze if the mistake was related to spelling, grammar or sentence order, among others. Besides, the teachers checked students’ papers and helped them to feel confident in their feedback. They guided the learners to improve their writing process, to compose high quality research articles, and to accomplish their academic goals.
There were two ways of giving feedback to Electronics Engineering students throughout this project: written feedback and oral feedback. The most useful type of feedback was written, because the students could check the comments and reflect on them. The oral feedback method was used only when the students made mistakes that were easy to correct. Finally, sometimes it was necessary to give feedback individually or in groups, after considering individual performance or general comments for the whole group.
Research Methodology
This research was developed using a qualitative approach. According to Williams (2006), a qualitative approach is a general way of thinking about conducting qualitative research. It describes, either explicitly or implicitly, the purpose of the qualitative research, the role of the researcher(s), the stages of research, and the method of data analysis. Additionally, a qualitative approach gathers information about the human being as related to behaviors, believes, opinions and interaction among people.
Based on the previous concept, this study was supported within this approach, because I we worked with a group of students and the proposal followed some specific stages, such as objectives, role of the researchers and data analysis, among others. Moreover, the Electronics Engineering students were the center of the research, actively participating in the different implemented activities to help them write a research article through collaborative work during several workshops sessions.
Type of Research
This project was developed using an action research methodology. According to Wallace (1998), "action research" is small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and close examination of the effect of such intervention. Besides, Wallace states that action research is situational, because it is concerned with diagnosing a problem in a specific context and attempting to solve it in that context; it is usually collaborative with teams of researchers and practitioners working together on a project. Action research is participatory and self-evaluative in order to improve practice in some way or another.
Data Collection Procedure
In order to gather information during the development of this study, it was necessary to use instruments, understood as research tools, to help collect data using several techniques in order to answer the research question. These instruments provided reliability, validity and objectivity to the current study. Field notes, artifacts and a semi-structured interview were the instruments used to gather information.
These instruments had to have reliability, validity and objectivity. There were three instruments used to gather information: field notes, artifacts and a semi-structured interview.
Field notes led us to take notes about how Electronics Engineering students interacted among themselves and with the teacher and how their research article writing process was characterized. Artifacts was implemented because it provideds information about students’ writing progress, considering the process from the beginning to the end. and a A semi-structured interview was used to collect more information about the positive and negative aspects taken into account to improve the academic writing process in a collaborative way and to understand how the interventions worked and how they could be improved related to students’ writing and collaborative processes.
PEDAGOGICAL DESIGN
For the pedagogical design, we utilized relevant aspects from academic writing as well as the theory that lies behind collaborative work. The question that guided this study was I took into account the focus of this project: What does collaborative work among tenth semester Electronics Engineering students at USTA inform us about their academic writing development? Thus, Additionally, I weconsidered the purpose of this project was, to analyze how collaborative work relateds to undergraduate Electronics Engineering students’ academic writing development in English as a foreign language. These 2 aspects, along with the 10 workshops were implemented after studying the writing stages offered by Hyland (2003) and IEEE’s standards, synthesized in the and a new model for writing called "the convergence of writing stages" was created. Those stages, were considered reflected on when creating the pedagogical design (See Appendix #1 and Image #1). This pedagogical planning implied using the contents of Biomedical Instrumentation area because the students’ research articles were based on the projects developed in this field during two consecutive terms (See Appendix # 5). There is a table that illustrates the different activities, practices and stages implemented when this study was carried out at USTA, supported by the theories cited in the framework.
The first stage was a diagnosis to identify aspects in terms of academic writing from the students, as well as the way the participants worked in groups. After, the researchers provided the participants the chronogram of the activities. An introductory session was carried out when the researchers created materials and activities to illustrate the main constructs to the participants and encouraged them to write through collaborative work. The researchers introduced and explained each one of the writing stages based on the new model (convergence of writing stages) (See Image #1) Likewise, the researchers and explained to the students the different activities they needed to deliver, the amount of time they had for each task, the importance of feedback, and the decision to work in groups. Before collecting data and implementing the workshops, the researchers achieved an introductory activity when she they gave input in order to introduce Electronics Engineering students to collaborative work and the key components of academic writing to compose a research article. The topics considered for developing the academic writing workshops which emerged from research interests of the participants already settled in another subject were: "Design of a Robot for Surgery in Brain", "Design of a Prototype to Detect Shapes to be used in Brain Surgery" and "Design of a Robotic Arm Prototype Oriented to Surgical Applications."
The development of the first workshop started with key constructs: academic writing and collaborative work, meaning that the planned activities and the established objectives were based on these concepts. In this workshop, the students organized their teams and the teacher-researchers gave them a short article based on Electronics Engineering topics in English. Students skimmed the whole text and became aware of the importance of writing research articles in English. When students were developing part of the first and second workshops, they were asked to generate ideas (first stage brainstorming session) and to create a mind map based on a picture given by the researchers. All of the students participated collaboratively. Then, students created their own mind maps based on the research topics that they were working on in the Biomedical Instrumentation class.
Then, in the third workshop, students started the second stage of the new model named "drafting" in which they were able to identify main sentences and supporting sentences. Besides, they had a clear understanding of the 6 different parts of a research article: abstract, introduction, materials and methods, analysis of results, conclusions and references. I We organized activities to introduce Electronics Engineering students to the research article writing process, including an explanation of how paragraphs should be developed, providing them with samples from different sources and styles. For the initial compositions, they considered the previous mind map that they created themselves and established the different roles each student played during the writing process. In order to support the step-by-step writing process, the field note was taken to monitor and verify how the activities made sense to students, as well as to store impressions of conversations and interactions among project participants.
In the fourth workshop, the learners studied connectors and how to link sentences or paragraphs. In the fifth workshop, the use of an error analysis chart, suggested by Hedge (1998) was presented and explained in order to guide students towards self-correction. In this way, students began to develop the third stage: refining and editing. Students started to submit their first compositions and received feedback on form and content. Then, they had to improve their writing based on the comments provided by the teachers and engineer who was in charge of the class. These comments emphasized the language students needed to master, the content or expressions they needed to clarify, the correct technical vocabulary and the use of punctuation marks. All of these facts emerged in the sixth workshop. In the last workshops implemented, students’ papers were returned so that they could make final adjustments in order to develop the final stage: improving quality. In addition, guidelines were given to the students in order to fulfill the standards established by the IEEE (See Appendix # 11). By the end of the exercise, the participants were able to complete the whole writing process following the stages established in the convergence model.
Chart #3: Workshops Implemented in this Project.
Workshops
Activities
Workshop N°1
Generating ideas
Workshop N°2
Knowing about academic articles
Workshop N°3
Drawing sentences
Workshop N°4
Providing tools
Workshop N°5 Learning about written academic articles in collaborative work
Collaborative work and writing activities
The students developed a brainstorming activity based on a picture. Also, they applied skimming and scanning reading in a research article used as a model.
The students shared ideas and the whole group created a mind map.
They shared knowledge about main topic and supporting sentences. They analyzed the structure of academic articles.
The students began to organize ideas for an academic article taking into account main and supporting ideas.
The students took different roles during the development of the activities implemented in the workshops.
Students started to get familiar with the meaning of some connectors and they draw sentences with logical connectors.
The students received their first comment from the teacher and they got closed to the use of an error chart analysis.
Workshops
Activities
Workshop N°6
Refining and correcting
Workshop N°7
Gathering information
Workshop N°8
Editing final polish up writing the conclusion
Workshop N°9
Improving quality
Workshop N° 10
Improving quality
Collaborative work and writing activities
The students considered their mistakes and began the process of composing: writing and rewriting with correct use of punctuation marks.
The students made decision related to the use of technical vocabulary.
The students kept improving their written compositions and applied the IEEE’s standards.
The students submitted the final product of writing.
The student defended the written document through an oral presentation.
Finally, you as reader find the chart above in which you can see a brief description of the structure of the ten (10) workshops that were implemented during the development of this study. These workshops were essential in order to identify the categories and subcategories of this project which will be explain in the next chapter.
Findings
There are different items such as the research findings which are included in two main categories and five subcategories that arose from the current research project. The main objective of this project was to analyze how collaborative work relates to undergraduate Electronics Engineering students’ academic writing development in English as a foreign language at USTA.
The grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data collected. Strauss and Corbin (1990) state that this approach consists of a set of steps to formulate hypotheses based on conceptual ideas that guarantee a good theory by creating categories based on the data gathered. In order to validate the findings of this study I we used methodological triangulation. According to Rothbauer and Paulette M. (2008), triangulation is seen as a research strategy that can reduce biases or deficiencies caused by using only one method of inquiry.
Chart #4: Categories and Subcategories Established Throughout the Data Analysis.
MAIN QUESTION:
¿What does collaborative work among tenth semester electronics engineering students at USTA inform us about their academic writing development?
SUB-QUESTIONS
CATEGORIES
SUBCATEGORIES
¿What features of collaboration are recurrent while Electronics Engineering students develop their academic writing skills?
1 Collaborative features:
Roles, values and environment emerged.
1.1. Team-work:
A determinant factor on learners’ and teachers’ roles.
1.2. Values and students’ decision making in terms of writing practices:
Cooperative work and development of values in learners which facilitated the writing practice.
1.3. Providing a confident environment strengthens students’ writing skills development and team work.
¿What does the implementation of a writing model reveal about undergraduate Electronics Engineering students’ academic writing development when creating their research articles?
2 Adapting a practical model of writing to strengthen students’ academic writing style.
2.1 A convergence writing model & linguistic features development.
2.2 Feedback as a way to raise students’ self-confidence for writing academic papers.
1. Collaborative Features: Roles, Values and Environment Emerged: This category allowed to answer helped me to answer the first sub–question of this project: ¿What features of collaboration are recurrent while Electronics Engineering students develop their academic writing skills? This category highlights how each group was characterized according to their performance, the different roles that each participant played during the research article writing process, and the values that were necessary to achieve common goals. Likewise, this category will explain the relationships that emerged among students, their tutor-engineer and the teacher-researchers while the learners were working in group, the advantages, atmosphere and characteristics of cooperative work that emerged when Electronics Engineering students worked together were evident. From the aspects mentioned above, the following subcategories emerged.
1.1 Team-Work: A Determinant Factor on Learners’ and Teachers’ Roles: This subcategory refers to how the different group-work activities developed by every one of the groups when going through the different writing stages proposed allowed Electronics Engineering students to develop specific work roles. I We observed that most students showed a positive attitude during the development of each workshop and enjoyed working in groups, because they could help each other and they took on specific roles and conducted significant negotiation..
The roles that every one of the participants of this study (students, teacher-researchers and engineer tutor) assumed were significant because TR and ET guided the electronics learners in their process of writing and the students became engaged in the project and tried to do their best even if they presented weaknesses when they were writing their research articles and each one of the participants contributed meaningful ideas and information to create an academic paper. Among the different writing activities linked with collaborative work emerged different kinds of roles from informal and spontaneous conversations and these roles allowed to characterize each participant and each team-work with specific features.
1.2 Values and Students’ Decision Making in Terms of Writing Practices Cooperative Work and Development of Values in Learners which Facilitated the Writing Practice: This subcategory refers to the values that emerged among the participants when they were developing the different writing activities. Values such as respect, commitment and responsibility helped the students to become aware of their comments at the moment of sharing their ideas, contradictions and their negotiations. Besides, this subcategory explained how the values mentioned previously emerged when students made correct decisions and established written agreements in the paper. For instance, activities such as the selection of the correct title of the article, the use of connectors, the sharing of points’ of view about the pictures displayed and expressing ideas concerning to the topic allowed to identify values from electronics students.
In conclusion, I We can say that electronics students were willing to work and enjoyed writing collaboratively. Participants exchanged their opinions with fellow classmates, ET and TR in a respectful way. Students were listening to others allowing to assume the process of writing in an easy and dynamic way easily and dynamic. The electronics students’ voices were heard in a different way and all the participants (electronics students, ET and RT) demonstrated commitment and responsibility in each one of the activities achieved in this project.
1.3 Providing a Confident Environment Strengthens Students’ Writing Skills Development and Team Work: This subcategory emerged from electronics students, Engineer-Tutor (ET) and Teacher-Researchers (TR) experiences when they were developing the activities implemented in the workshops. It demonstrated how collaborative work emerged when participants had the chance to work in groups, how students interacted among them and how students felt supported by their classmates, ET and TR which allowed students create a confident environment when they were writing their research articles in English as a foreign language and when they kept informal conversations using Spanish and English languages. According to Panitz (1996), there are benefits of working collaboratively: "create an environment of active, involved exploratory learning, build self-esteem in students and enhance students’ satisfaction which the learning experience provides greater ability of students to view situations from others’ perspectives."
2. Adapting a Practical Model of Writing to Strengthen Students’ Academic Writing Style: This category attempts to answer the second sub-question of this proposal: what does the implementation of a writing model reveal about undergraduate Electronics Engineering students’ academic writing development when creating their research articles? Besides, this category describes the process in which Electronics Engineering students were involved in writing an academic paper using technical vocabulary, correct sentence structure, paragraphs with connectors, main ideas, supporting ideas and the correct order with organization that a research article requires, as well as the importance of providing feedback timely. From the aspects mentioned above, the following subcategories emerged:
A Convergence Writing Model and Linguistic Features Development:
This subcategory refers to some linguistic features in terms of language (technical vocabulary, correct sentence structure, paragraphs with connectors, main ideas, supporting ideas, the correct order of images and well information organized) which were evidenced in students’ artifacts after implementing a new model of writing (Convergence Model).
At the end of the implementation of this proposal three research articles were created. Nine students worked on a robotic prototype with different approaches. All those articles were analyzed in order to identify the linguistic aspects I mentioned in the previous paragraph.
This subcategory revealed that students were able to organize information better, if they followed a model explaining them what to do and how to do before writing but it was necessary to encourage students to write academic papers in order to help them to achieve their academic goals. During the application of the writing activities, students followed the stages proposed in the new model named Convergence Model which was demonstrated in their written papers. They expressed how this model supported them in understanding how to write a research article. In the sample below, the process that some of the participants followed to write a research article is presented.
2.2 Feedback as a Way to Raise Students’ Self-Confidence for Writing Academic Papers: This subcategory emerged from Electronics Engineering students’ experiences when they were developing the different activities of the workshops. It illustrates how feedback from Electronics Engineer and the English teachers was meaningful to participants, because it allowed students to raise their confidence when they were writing in the foreign language, increased their ability to correct mistakes themselves and contributed to the texts’ enrichment. According to Zeus and Skiffington (2000) feedback is seen as the way people give opinions or assess the behavior or performance of someone.
Once students were asked to produce their first drafts, feedback was provided along with the purpose of empowering the process of writing. This feedback was used again in the third staged proposed in the convergence model when students rewrote and revised their compositions until they reached the final stage (improving quality).
Finally, it is necessary to search for the best way to encourage students to write, even if they make mistakes. It is important to find a way to guide them in this process and to help them understand their errors, because it is not easy to write research articles. The students were able to improve the quality of their written compositions through the feedback and the use of the error analysis chart which were necessary in order to help students to be aware of their mistakes at the moment of writing their research articles which were the final outcome for this study.
CONCLUSIONS
Using a convergence model of writing stages allowed to conclude that the activities used have to be selected and adapted considering the students’ needs and interests in order to make the writing process significant. It can be stated that students achieved their written production because they were able to understand the different stages of the model implemented. Those stages provided them not only with a sense of how to begin writing something but a practical demonstration of how to do it.
Including collaborative work allowed participants to recognize the writing process in a different way. Workgroup helped them to make meaningful comments and learns from others. Besides, they felt supported by their partners and teachers when they made mistakes and recognize how important it is to value every attempt students make when expressing their own ideas.
The roles such as leader, harmonizer, listener, compromiser, encourager, facilitator, guider and organizer emerged spontaneously when all the participants (electronics students, engineer-tutor and teacher-researchers) of this project were working collaboratively. These roles were meaningful in the process of writing research articles because each one of the members contributed significant ideas and relevant information which were included in the students’ artifacts. Besides, participants played their roles properly and it allowed to distinguish each team-work with certain characteristics and to achieve the same academic goal with responsibility.
The constant dialogue between partners and teachers facilitated the creation of an appropriate atmosphere of work in which students felt confidents among them without being concerned the mistakes made. Besides, the positive attitudes from students and teachers were essential since the fact that the students needed to be guided in the writing process and the teacher needed to be outstanding in the teaching process.
In the sub-category "Values & students’ decision making in terms of writing practices Cooperative work & development of values in learners which facilitated the writing practice", it was discovered in the results that when the participants had the chance to work in groups values such as respect, commitment and responsibility emerged during the whole writing process. These values arose inside and outside classroom through the development of some activities such as the correct use of connectors, the organization of information within the articles and when participants were sharing their points of view. These values helped the students to be careful at the moment of expressing ideas, disagreements or make decisions which were considered considering in the research articles. These values helped students to listen to others allowing them to assume the process of writing easily and dynamic.
In the sub-category "Providing a confident environment strengthens students’ writing skills development & team work", it was evident that the participants had the opportunity to know each other, share knowledge, develop writing skill in English as a foreign language, mixed academic knowledge and personal experiences, and learn from others when they worked in groups. Besides; the fact of developing the activities proposed in the workshops in groups (collaborative work) provided a confident environment where electronics students were able to strengthen strengthens their writing skill development and build self-esteem. The interaction among participants using informal expressions allowed to feel students supported by the engineer-tutor and the teacher-researcher in their process of writing. The use of the dialogue as a way to communicate doubts was very important for the students because they were able to understand their mistakes and their confidence increased when they found an appropriate atmosphere of work in which each participant accepted and respected different points of view avoiding conflicts and expressing their agreements and disagreements..
In the sub-category "A convergence writing model & linguistic features development" it is noticeable that after students followed the specific stages proposed in the convergence model they felt the need to know what process to follow in order to write research articles. The students’ outcomes were three research articles which are not perfect but are understandable. Linguistics features development became an important process in order for the participants to see how language issues supported the process of writing production. Besides, the students recognized that writing in English always requires the use of different material or tools such as dictionaries, books, websites, among others. Using different materials helped electronics students to activate their imagination and generate ideas for creating research articles.
Working in groups was meaningful because while some students had excellent grammar others had great ideas or writing abilities allowing student to make successful contributions in teamwork. and it allows that of this way all the students contributed anyway in teamwork. The writing process was supported by cooperative work as well because the participants learned, improve and practice English in terms of writing, grammar, technical vocabulary, connectors and IEEE standards.
The sub-category "Feedback as a way to raise students’ self- confidence for writing academic papers", The process of feedback contributed in this project as a support of the process students followed to correct their mistakes and improve their writing. After all, it was very important to take feedback as an ongoing development. All the students of this project were able to provide meaningful comments among themselves, after receiving feedback from the teacher-researchers and the engineer-tutor. Students accepted positive and negative feedback with an appropriate attitude. The students were able to understand the error chart analysis as a way to provide feedback. In conclusion, after reviewing all the data collected, it can be said that feedback was one of the main highlights in the students writing process. Finally, after implementing the different workshops, it is important to bear in mind students’ needs, interest, weaknesses and strengths in order to encourage them to write research articles.

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