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Academic Literacy and Engineering Education: Development through Cornerstone Design

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Design Communications & Cognition II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.130.1 - 22.130.18



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Paper Authors


Brian Bielenberg Petroleum Institute Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Brian Bielenberg is Head of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the Petroleum Institute in the United Arab Emirates, where he also teaches introductory multi-disciplinary engineering design courses.

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Academic Literacy: What Is It? And Why Should Design Course Faculty Care?Traditional views of literacy argued that student acquisition of the “technologies” of reading andwriting were causally responsible for cognitive and developmental benefits that couldsubsequently be transferred to other educational tasks (Goody, 1987, 1999; Havelock, 1986;Olson, 1994). This “autonomous” model has gradually given way to a more “social” model ofliteracy that takes into account the context in which a literacy practice occurs, and the effects thatsetting may have on how literacy is conceived and enacted (Multimedia Education Group, 2008;Gee, 1990; Street, 1984, 1995, 1997). One of these new literacies, Academic Literacy, indicatesfluency not only in reading and writing, but also in the particular ways of thinking, doing, andbeing that are peculiar to academic contexts such as undergraduate engineering education. Thisview of literacy also includes the use of technology and the ability to think both critically andcreatively as part of its definition. Academic Literacy and its applications within teaching andlearning environments are thus quite relevant when discussing how best to developundergraduate engineers through the design experience. This presentation reports on the resultsof an ethnographic study of a sophomore level engineering design course. The research focusedon identifying aspects of academic literacy occurring in the design course, how instructors andstudents experienced academic literacy, and how instructors facilitated student access to theknowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for success with academic literacy in the context ofengineering design. The ethnographic component was extended through corpus analysis oftextual materials used in the course in order to determine Academic English particular to thedesign course under study. The presentation will conclude with an examination of the impact ofexplicit discussions about Academic Literacy in a design course on student learning as assessedthrough student assignments as well as feedback during end of the course focus groups. Overall,it was seen that an increased focus on Academic Literacy in a multi-disciplinary design courseprovided students with a better understanding of what is expected of them as emerging engineersand enabled them to think more creatively and critically about the design projects presented,abilities and knowledge that will guide them to becoming successful engineers in a rapidlyevolving, highly globalized world.

Bielenberg, B. (2011, June), Academic Literacy and Engineering Education: Development through Cornerstone Design Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17411

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