Designing a Post Entry Language Assessment (PELA) in a First-year Engineering Course at a Canadian University

Grant program: Multilingual Classroom

Grant recipient: Michael Sjoerdsma, Engineering Science

Project team: Amanda Wallace, CELLTR/Faculty of Education, and Research Assistant, TBD

Timeframe: March 2019 to January 2020

Funding: $5800

Course addressed: ENSC 100 – Engineering Technology & Society

Description: This course is required for all in-coming first-year students. ENSC 100 introduces students to the practice of engineering by surveying its history and its current state. It is closely connected to ENSC 105W which introduces the principles of effective communication with an emphasis on writing, research, presentations, and resumes. The two courses share teaching assistants, design labs, and some assignments with ENSC 105W providing support for the written and oral assignments in ENSC 100.

The intent of the work proposed in this grant is to create an instrument that will be used in the Fall 2019 offering of ENSC 100. We intend on applying for another ISTLD grant for the implementation phase. As we outline in this application, we will conduct pilot studies with former students from the Fall 2018 offering of ENSC 100, and, if possible, students enrolled in either offering of these courses at Fraser International College (FIC) in the Summer 2019 semester.

The outcome of this project has two intertwined goals: 1) assess students’ reading comprehension skills to allow the instructors to provide appropriate support for students identified as in need of additional assistance; 2) gather data required by our accreditation board.

Questions addressed:

  • How well do students in the pilot understand what to do with the assessment tasks?
  • Which of the two formats, open-ended or multiple-choice, best capture students’ reading comprehension?
  • How consistently do different raters score students’ performance on the assessment

Knowledge sharing: Our colleagues in FAS’s other schools, computer science and mechatronics, may be interested in our findings. We could present them at a faculty meeting where the Dean of FAS/Directors of the schools are present. Additionally, results could be disseminated in a departmental research talk and/or in FAS’s E-newsletter.

We believe the practices/results of our study would be of interest to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) in FAS and could be used to inform upcoming curriculum revisions and for accreditation purposes. As well, Work-integrated Learning (WIL), may find the results useful for anticipating those students in need of more support around securing a co-op placement. Lastly, this project may be of interest to other faculties/departments such as Beedie, Health Sciences, and Economics (forthcoming) who have also implemented a similar diagnostic.