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An Exploratory Study of Engineering Students’ Misconceptions about Technical Communication

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division Technical Session 9

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count

21

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/32061

Download Count

2

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Paper Authors

biography

Cheryl Q. Li University of New Haven

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Cheryl Qing Li joined University of New Haven in the fall of 2011, where she is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Cheryl earned her first Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from National University of Singapore in 1997. She served as Assistant Professor and subsequently Associate Professor in Mechatronics Engineering at University of Adelaide, Australia, and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, respectively. In 2006, she resigned from her faculty job and came to Connecticut for family reunion. Throughout her academic career in Australia and Singapore, she had developed a very strong interest in learning psychology and educational measurement. She then opted for a second Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, specialized in Psychometrics at University of Connecticut. She earned her second Ph.D. in 2010.

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Judy Randi University of New Haven

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Judy Randi, Ed.D. is Professor of Education at the University of New Haven where she is currently teaching in the Tagliatela College of Engineering and coordinating a college-wide initiative, the Project to Integrate Technical Communication Habits (PITCH).

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Jenna Pack Sheffield University of New Haven

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Jenna Sheffield holds a PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English from the University of Arizona. Sheffield is currently an Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Haven where she also directs the Writing Across the Curriculum program. Her research in composition pedagogy and theory and writing program administration has appeared in publications such as Computers and Composition International, Computers and Composition
Online, Kairos, and College English. Sheffield was also part of the CCCC Research Initiative grant-funded project, “The University of Arizona Longitudinal Study of Student Writers,” in which she served as Research Assistant during the initial phases of the study. As part of the study, she conducted interviews with research subjects about their writing practices in and outside of the classroom.

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Abstract

An Exploratory Study of Engineering Students’ Misconceptions about Technical Communication

This paper reports results of a mixed methods study that examined engineering students’ acquisition of technical communication skills over time. In particular, this exploratory study aimed to identify persistent errors, lingering misconceptions, and challenges engineering students faced when they attempted to apply their knowledge and skills in new contexts. The 12 participants were drawn from engineering courses in which students were required to compose technical memoranda in response to requests for information from supervisors or clients. This integrated approach addresses content and communication in the same course. The study included a longitudinal analysis of four technical memoranda written across two courses and qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with students who wrote these memoranda. The study documented students’ improvement in technical communication over time, from one course to another. The study also found correlations between content knowledge and communication skills. Analysis of qualitative data showed that students bring with them prior knowledge about writing from high school and college courses that may support or interfere with the acquisition of technical writing skills. Insufficient or inaccurate prior knowledge including lack of experience with reporting data or using visual communication tools as well as the literal interpretation of models accounted for persistent errors. Taking “short cuts” was a common theme that led students to ignore effective writing practices, such as planning or revising. The most common misconception students held was the notion that engineering students are “good at math” but “poor at writing.” These results suggest that the acquisition of technical writing skills might be hindered by students’ own self-concepts. Instructors can promote students’ self-efficacy as writers by guiding them to understand that strong writing skills can be acquired with practice

Li, C. Q., & Randi, J., & Sheffield, J. P. (2019, June), An Exploratory Study of Engineering Students’ Misconceptions about Technical Communication Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/32061

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