The writing component of'the Mechanical Design course was a challenging course to teach and learn. Students did not meet with the instructor in class every week. So, success in the course required a lot of independence and autonomy. The style of writing was technical. This type of writing is very specific, and requires a high degree of logic and clarity. The authors ideas should be very clear. In addition, technical writing also makes frequent use of charts and figures. This is not like standard English composition which ignores experi- ments and graphic elements and large amounts of data. Students worked in Writing Groups to enhance both their writing skills and leadership abilities. These groups of 4 to 7 students met for one hour every week The groups were managed by the students themselves, and a Teaching As- sistant or the writing instructor monitored the group. A fre- quent activity to end a Writing Group session was rating the performance of the leader, and giving praise or suggestions for improvement. Leaders for the next week were ques- tioned about how they would prepare for the task. In brief, the Writing Groups taught the students not only writing skills, but developed participation and group management skills.
Assignments were distributed electronically via QQ, the social media platform. These covered a variety of writing skills, including quotes, paraphrases, the use of sources in papers, how to use figures, charts and graphs, and how to write abstracts. They practiced by working on the abstract they would later use in their papers.
On top of all of these challenges, the course also re- quired a high degree of cooperation with Feng Lai, the other instructor, who was teaching the Mechanical Design course. Good planning was essential, and when problems arose, good negotiation and coopera- tion helped us to overcome the obstacles.
At the end of the course, all of the students participate in a conference, presenting the research or findings which they did during the semester. This was also the first time have ever organized such an event, and this added an entirely different dimension to my normal work of teaching.
I am pleased with the overall results of the course. The experience also has had an impact on what we teach in courses that precede it. We have altered the curric- ulum of the freshman courses for a better approach to the final goal. And next year, when this course comes along again, I look forward to seeing the results and continuing to develop it.