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  1. In an earlier work, the authors compared the writing style of Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) students in an “untutored” state to the writing style of “tutored” students, where the tutoring was provided by “generic” writing center tutors. The results of this study showed that aside from changes in the diction of the students’ work, there was little measurable improvement in the quality of student writing as measured by both the AAC&U VALUE Rubric and by the authors’ voice-development-style-diction method. The current work builds on the results of the previous work by providing training on a just-in-time basis for the writing center tutors. As with previous years, the students participating in the study were MET students in a last-semester capstone industrial design course. This course is organized around a series of open-ended industry-sponsored projects for which the students are expected to develop a solution to a mechanical engineering problem. The students work on the projects in teams of three or four students and complete the work over a two-semester sequence offered annually on a fall-spring basis. The assignment in the study was identical to that of previous years: an “analysis” report in which students are expected to apply content from previous courses to one aspect of the industry-sponsored design project. The present study will compare the results from three iterations of the study: the work of “untutored” students, i.e. those who did not received any writing center assistance whatsoever, those who tutored by “generic” writing center tutors, and lastly, the works of those tutored by tutors specifically trained in support of the specific intervention. In the two cases where tutor interaction occurred, it was required as a component of the course to ensure participation by the entire student cohort. In general, the interactions with the specially-trained tutors produced works with a more mature writing style on the part of the student as compared to those works produced by students who had interacted with the untrained tutors or no tutors at all. The work will also discuss survey data collected on the “generic” and specially-trained tutoring sessions and discuss the differences in the results. Preliminary results show that the specially-trained tutors reported pronounced levels of engagement in the tutoring session, as measured by student note-taking, student questions, student receptiveness to suggestions, and student desire to understand the reasoning behind the tutors’ suggestions. Specially-trained tutors also reported significantly higher levels of student interest suggestions about grammar, style, content, format, and citations. Overall, it is concluded that specific training for the tutors was most associated with increased levels of interaction between tutor and student. As the students in the final group (“trained tutors”) were told prior to the tutoring session that the tutors were “specially trained,” it remains to be determined if the increased interaction was due to better tutor preparation or a higher estimation of the value of the tutoring session on the part of the students receiving the tutoring. This is proposed as an extension to the current work. 
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  2. Undergraduate STEM writing skills, especially in engineering fields, need improvement. Yet students in engineering fields often do not value writing skills and underestimate the amount of writing they will do in their careers. University writing centers can be a helpful resource, but peer writing tutors need to be prepared for the differences between writing for the humanities and writing in STEM fields. The Writing Assignment Tutor Training in STEM (WATTS) model is designed to improve tutor confidence and student writing. In this innovative training, the writing center supervisor collaborates with the STEM instructor to create a one-hour tutor-training where the tutors learn about the assignment content, vocabulary, and expectations. This multidisciplinary collaborative project builds on previous investigative work to determine the impact of WATTS on students, tutors, and faculty and to identify its mitigating and moderating effects. Data has been collected and analyzed from pre- and post- training surveys, interviews, and focus groups. In addition, the project studies WATTS effects on student writing pre- and post-tutoring. The team will use these results to develop a replicable, sustainable model for future expansion to other institutions and fields. By systematically collecting data and testing WATTS, the investigators will be able to identify its mitigating and moderating effects on different stakeholders and contribute valuable knowledge to STEM fields. This approach assesses the elements of the model that have the most impact and the extent to which WATTS can be used to increase collaboration between engineering instructors and writing centers. The project enables the investigators to expand WATTS to additional engineering courses, test key factors with more instructors, refine the process, and position WATTS for dissemination to a broad audience. As the cost of higher education rises, institutions are pressured to graduate students in four years and engineering curricula are becoming more complex. WATTS presents an economical, effective method to improve student writing in the discipline. Several factors indicate that it has the potential for broad dissemination and impact and will provide a foundation for a sustainable model for future work, as instructors become trainers for their colleagues, allowing additional ongoing expansion and implementation. WATTS serves as a model for institutions (large or small) to capitalize on existing infrastructure and resources to achieve large-scale improvements to undergraduate STEM writing while increasing interdisciplinary collaboration and institutional support. 
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