Practice Makes Deeper? Regular Reflective Writing during Engineering Internships


  • Mia Minnes University of California, San Diego
  • John Mayberry University of the Pacific
  • Melissa Soto San Diego State University
  • Jace Hargis


Written Reflection, Metacognition, Transformative Writing, Professional Preparation, Internship


Does regular reflective writing enhance engineering students’ capacity to be reflective professionals? This study explores whether writing and sharing weekly reflections throughout a summer internship can transform the way engineering students’ think about their work in a way that connects it more profoundly with their academic studies. A quasi-experimental mixed methods design is used with a sample size of 60 participants over two years. Using the AAC&U’s Integrative Learning rubric, we find statistically significant improvement in the quality and depth of students’ written reflection at the end of a summer internship enriched with regular writing.  In their writing, students find explicit concrete and abstract connections between their studies and the internship work they do, drawing lessons from it and re-conceptualizing their role as both students and engineers.  The reflections facilitate transformative learning during the internship experiences, guiding students in their professional development.

Author Biographies

Mia Minnes, University of California, San Diego

Dr. Minnes is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. Her research interests include both theoretical computer science and the scholarship of teaching and learning.  She has won research funding from the National Science Foundation across these disciplines, including projects on computability and complexity as well as effective teaching practices for large classes.  Her work promoting the teaching of mathematical communication led to an open resource hosted by the Mathematical Association of America, which can be found at  Dr. Minnes received her PhD in Mathematics from Cornell University in 2008.

John Mayberry, University of the Pacific

Dr. Mayberry received his BA in Mathematics from California State University, Fullerton in 2003 and his PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Southern California in 2008. After completing his doctoral work, he spent two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor at Cornell University before starting his current position as an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of the Pacific. His research interests include applied probability, mathematical biology, and statistics.

Melissa Soto, San Diego State University

Dr. Soto is currently an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education specializing in Cognitively Guided Instruction of mathematical thinking. Her areas of interest include investigating mathematical processing, providing mathematical professional development to teachers, examining ways to implement mobile learning. Dr. Soto has earned a B.A. in Elementary Education, a M.Ed. in Mathematics Education, and her Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from the University of California at Davis. She is presently researching the affordances of screencasts in documenting student's mathematical explanations and as a formative assessment tool for teachers.

Jace Hargis

Dr. Hargis currently assists faculty as the Director of the Center for Engaged Teaching at the University of California, San Diego. His prior positions include a College Director in Abu Dhabi, UAE; an Associate Provost of Faculty Development, Assessment and Research and Professor in Honolulu; an Assistant Provost of Faculty Development and Associate Professor in northern California; and a Director of Faculty Development and Assistant Professor in Florida. He has authored a textbook, an anthology and published over 100 academic articles as well as offered hundreds of academic presentations. He has earned a B.S. in Oceanography from Florida Institute of Technology; an M.S. in Environmental Engineering Sciences and a Ph.D. in Science Education from the University of Florida. Dr. Hargis’ research agenda focuses on how people learn while integrating appropriate, relevant and meaningful instructional technologies.


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