Making writing practices visible and sustainable in the engineering curriculum: a practice architectures theory analysis

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Engineering practice requires engineers who have strong spoken and written communication skills, but the development of these skills, notably writing practices, is often invisible in the engineering curriculum, and rarely embedded. Decades of reviews of engineering education have identified the gap between the engineering curriculum and engineering practice, such as engineering graduates’ level of writing skills being inadequate for the workplace. This paper draws on research from a qualitative study which investigates the perspectives of engineering educators about writing practices in the engineering curriculum, utilizing the theory of practice architectures as a theoretical and methodological lens. Using examples from the case studies, we explore some constraints of the development of writing practices in the engineering curriculum. We then focus on case studies where the development of writing practices is enabled within a subject, across a sequence of subjects and throughout an engineering degree program, and identify elements that contribute to these practices. Our findings suggest that the development of writing practices can be integrated into engineering studies, but certain pre-conditions are required.
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