June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
22.14.1 - 22.14.10
100 Freshman Civil Engineers: A Model for Integrating Communication and Teamwork in Large Engineering CoursesEngineering education has been transformed over the past decade. Increasingly,engineering students are seeing the integration of communication, teamwork, leadership,and ethics into their engineering curriculum. The best models are those that couple theseprofessional skills with actual engineering projects to show students how intricatelylinked communication and teamwork skills are with engineering problem solving anddesign. Much emphasis is placed on senior capstone courses, as this meets the immediatedemand of preparing graduating seniors for the non-technical aspects of their careers. Incontrast, freshman classes receive less attention in terms of their position to “set the tone”for the coupling of communication and engineering, likely because the demands placedon freshman engineering classes are already high. They serve as a recruitment tool, peakinterest in engineering as a field of study, expose students to the many and varied areas ofconcentration in the discipline, and perhaps, introduce students to engineering projectsand basic design skills. While the many and varied objectives of freshman classes alreadychallenge the curriculum, increasing enrollment is another constraint. Unusually largefreshman classes make intensive speaking and writing opportunities challenging in termsof evaluation and feedback.At the University of Utah, we have successfully integrated communication andinterpersonal skill development into the freshman civil engineering class for severalyears. CVEEN 1000 provides students with an overview of civil and environmentalengineering, including the major elements of the profession, a basic understanding of thecore disciplines, and the ideas surrounding engineering design. In addition, this courseprovides students with the expectations, requirements, demands, and commitments theycan be expected to address as they complete the Civil and Environmental Engineeringcurriculum, including development of technical, communication, and team skills. Despitemany years of success with this course, we faced a unique challenge this year whenenrollment increased by almost fifty percent. This increased number of studentsthreatened to disrupt our already intensive instruction and evaluation processes.Our purpose in this paper is to showcase our unique approach to team teaching, illustratethe individualized attention students receive on their writing, speaking, and teamworkassignments, and provide an assessment of our approach. Specifically, we will highlightour model of team teaching, and show how we capitalize on a unique class structure toallow for individualized communication experiences and feedback for all 100 students.We will show how our freshman class meets the aforementioned recruitment andretention objectives, while also introducing students to civil engineering design andrequisite communication skills. Finally, we will assess our efforts through gatheringstudent feedback in the form of surveys, evaluating students’ speaking and writingcompetence, and gathering feedback from the instructional team to guide continuousimprovement in the course.
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