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An Evaluation Of Workforce Presentation Instruction In Ie Capstone Design

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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

Focus on IE Course Design and Assessment

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.177.1 - 13.177.11



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Paper Authors


Judith Norback Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Judith Norback is the Director of Workplace and Academic Communication in Georgia Tech’s Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. She received her B.A. magna cum laude from Cornell University and her Masters and Ph.D. from Princeton. Before joining Georgia Tech in 2000, she taught at Rutgers University, worked in job-related basic skills research at Educational Testing Service, and then founded and directed the Center for Skills Enhancement, Inc. Her research and curriculum development interests lie in workforce communication skills needed by undergraduate engineering students. At Georgia Tech, she conducts and coordinates workplace interviews and teaches communication skills to undergraduates. Her research has been support by the Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation. She has published in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.

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Paul Griffin Georgia Tech

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Dr. Paul Griffin is a professor in Georgia Tech’s Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He received B.A. and B.S. degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University. Griffin's teaching interests are in production and logistics systems, and as the former Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, he has worked with Capstone Design. His research activities have been in supply chain coordination and control. Griffin has also consulted with several businesses, including The Coca-Cola Company, Thompson Consumer Electronics, and The Port Authority of South Carolina.

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Garlie Forehand Georgia Tech

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Garlie A. Forehand is now a consultant in educational design and assessment. He received his Ph.D. in psychometrics from the University of Illinois and his psychology from the University of Richmond. Forehand has held academic and research positions at the University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University. For the past 20 years, one of his areas of research and curriculum development has been workforce communication skills and instruction for undergraduates in engineering.

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

An Evaluation of Workforce Presentation Instruction in Industrial Engineering Capstone Design


For the past several years, workforce communication instruction has been integrated into Industrial Engineering (IE) Capstone Design courses at Georgia Tech. The instruction is based on actual interviews with practicing IEs, managers, and senior executives. Evaluation data from a new cohort which expands results previously reported are now available. Included in the instruction are 1) a tutorial, 2) a number of sessions for practice and feedback on the workforce presentation skills in a Workforce Communication Lab, and 3) a senior executive panel discussion on communication skills needed to move up the career ladder. The evaluation criteria include student-perceived confidence and competence. Also described are data on student needs reported at the beginning of the course and student benefits reported at the end of the course. The results provide substantial evidence that the instruction in workforce presentation skills is effective in the eyes of students


Over the past decade, multiple studies have indicated the need for better communication skills for engineers [1-5]. Studies have also identified, more specifically, the importance of oral presentation skills to the advancement of engineers in the workplace [6, 7]. As recently as 2007, students’ definitions of excellence in engineering education included communication skills [8].

In 2004, one study reported that, of 73 top-ranked U.S. and Canadian engineering schools surveyed about communication instruction for engineers, 33 percent reported integrating instruction “in which communication specialists and engineering professors collaborate” [9]. Many schools have integrated the instruction with the Capstone Design course [10-14].

In this study, communication instruction focused on presentation skills has been integrated into the Stewart School of ISyE at Georgia Tech Capstone Design course since 2002[15]. The course involves student teams working on real-life design projects with for-profit corporations, non-profits, health care organizations and government agencies. Students give six presentations during the course. The proposal presentation, interim presentation, and final presentation are each given to the Faculty Committee and class and to the client.


The presentation instruction is unique in its stress on information about communication collected directly from people in the workforce: practicing industrial engineers, managers, and senior executives of organizations employing many IEs. The interview process is described in detail elsewhere [16-18]. The instruction is referred to as workforce presentation instruction because it focuses on a subset of the skills identified through the interviews. These presentation skills were described as being central to graduates’ job competitiveness and quick ascent up the career ladder. The skills included in the instruction are shown in Table 1.

Norback, J., & Griffin, P., & Forehand, G. (2008, June), An Evaluation Of Workforce Presentation Instruction In Ie Capstone Design Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3588

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