Analytical Techniques for Developing Argumentative Writing in STEM: A Pilot Study

Patricia Marybelle Davies, Rebecca Jane Passonneau, Smaranda Muresan, Yanjun Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Contribution: Demonstrates how to use experiential learning (EL) to improve argumentative writing. Presents the design and development of a natural language processing (NLP) application for aiding instructors in providing feedback on student essays. Discusses how EL combined with automated support provides an analytical approach to improving written-communication skills. Background: High-quality, timely, feedback is an effective way to improve students' writing. However, large class sizes and limited instructor backgrounds often make formative feedback impossible. Recent trends, including lowering entry requirements, have added to these challenges. Assistive technologies for implementing inclusive education provide viable solutions. Research Questions: 1) How and why can EL be used to develop argumentative writing skills in university STEM students? 2) How can technologies be developed to support using EL in teaching writing? and 3) How might the holistic impact of using such analytic techniques be evaluated? Methodology: Participants in an EL project were assigned two essays in sequence. They were given instructions on making good arguments and shown how to use an analytic rubric to maximize their scores. The essays were hand scored by tutors who provided scores for each dimension of the rubric. Subsequently, the content and argumentation of the essays were analyzed using NLP techniques to obtain independent scores. Qualitative data were also collected. Findings: The project produced transformative writing experiences for the participants. It showed how analytical techniques help improve writing skills and how relevant automated instructor assistance can be developed using NLP technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-383
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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