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A New Engineering Communications Course Based On A Professional Communications Process

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Learning to Communicate with Engineers and Non-Engineers

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.71.1 - 13.71.24

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Paper Authors


Leslie Potter Iowa State University

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Leslie Potter is a Lecturer in the department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Iowa State University. She has extensive professional engineering experience, including seven years with Deere & Company in various engineering and supervision capacities. She received her M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Penn State University prior to joining the IMSE department at ISU. She is currently teaching her eighth year of the IE capstone design course. Her research interests include capstone design course effectiveness, engineering and professional skill integration, and assessment-driven continuous improvement.

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John Jackman Iowa State University

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Dr. John Jackman is an Associate Professor in the department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Iowa State University. His work in engineering problem solving has appeared in the Journal of Engineering Education and the International Journal of Engineering Education. He is currently investigating how engineers use and create information during the development process in order to improve their productivity and reduce development time.

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K. Jo Min Iowa State University

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Dr. K. Jo Min is an Associate Professor in the department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Iowa State University. His research areas are in operations research with an emphasis on pricing, supply chains, and assessment of services. Dr. Min is also recognized for his work in assessment and improvement of curricula and courses as well as global teaching and learning through international collaboration.

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Matthew Search Iowa State University

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Matthew Search is an Instructor in the Department of English at Iowa State University. His research areas are in writing across the curriculum, rhetorically-focused composition pedagogy, and the impact of workplace communication on professional identity development.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A New Engineering Communications Course Based on a Professional Communications Process Abstract

Given the nationally recognized need to improve engineering students’ communication skills, a new engineering communication course was developed by the Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering department at Iowa State University and offered in the Fall of 2007. Initial assessment results provide insight into student learning needs related to specific professional communication skills. The course is characterized by a high degree of interaction and formative assessment of students along with a unique core professional communication process consisting of (1) Analysis, (2) Formulation, (3) Creation, (4) Delivery, and (5) Assessment. Students participate in multimodal communication exercises that require ongoing practice and application of this process. This paper describes why the course was developed, the premise of the course, course content and logistics, examples and assessment of student work and perceptions, and future plans for long term impact and course/curriculum assessment.


Since 2000 when ABET identified outcome item (g) [students will have an ability to communicate effectively], academia has increasingly formalized its concurrence with industry that effective professional communication skills are necessary for the successful engineer. 1 As Shuman et al. have described, the set of ABET outcomes can be divided into “engineering” skills and “professional” skills, with professional skills including not only communication, but teamwork, ethics, professionalism, engineering solutions in a global and societal context, lifelong learning, and a knowledge of contemporary issues.2 ABET prioritized these professional skills as relatively equal in importance to those of technical competence in its Criteria for Accrediting Programs, and in doing so, made it possible for engineering programs to not only recognize the importance of professional skills, but to teach them to their students. ABET’s decision to formalize this priority reflects what industry has been emphasizing in its recruiting and advising for many years. Companies such as IBM and Boeing describe communication skills explicitly as a “foundational competency” and a “desired attribute of an engineer” respectively. 3, 4 Toyota and 3M list qualifications for engineering positions including “excellent oral, written, reporting, and problem solving skills” and “excellent interpersonal, oral and written communication skills,” respectively.5, 6 Recognizing the need to improve communication skills, educators have examined different approaches to increase communication skill emphasis in engineering courses and curriculums. 7, 8

Programs that emphasize communication often identify the need for more “practice” or varied forms of practice for both written and verbal tasks, including portfolios, reports, email, presentations, etc.7, 8, 9, 10 Yalvac et al. describe how an engineering course was redesigned to promote advanced writing skills by adding writing exercises based on the VaNTH taxonomy of core competency skills in writing.11 Many educators and institutions recognize the value of increasing communication emphasis in a longitudinal manner throughout a student’s academic program.12, 13 While this emphasis is significant and necessary for developing efficient and effective engineering graduates, increased “practice” time and/or varied assignment formats are

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015