Team-based written communication exercises for biomedical engineering juniors: Where to do it and what works
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ABET EC2000 challenged engineering educators to structure learning so that (1) competency is built progressively throughout a curriculum and (2) the notion of "competency" includes not only bioengineering knowledge, but other important professional skills, such as teamwork and communication. Meeting this challenge is difficult in an over-crowded biomedical engineering curriculum, where mastery of domain content is generally emphasized. Nonetheless, at Northwestern University, with support from the Vanderbilt-Northwestern-Texas- Harvard/MIT (VaNTH) Engineering Research Center, we have piloted a way to integrate team-based writing instruction into a junior course on neural systems physiology, targeting specific aspects of writing with which juniors seem to have difficulty. This article describes how writing was added to the course without diminishing the emphasis on content, plus the theory that underlies this instructional intervention. Also discussed are the results of a formal assessment to measure student gains in collaborative writing and implications for future interventions in this and other engineering courses.