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An Innovative Model For Teaching Communication Skills In Engineering Curricula

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Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

New Learning Paradigms I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

13

Page Numbers

14.198.1 - 14.198.13

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/5559

Download Count

56

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Paper Authors

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Warren Hull Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

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Warren R. Hull, Sr. is the Engineering Communications Coordinator at Louisiana State University. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Louisiana State University and an M.S. in Environmental Health from Harvard University. His engineering career spans over 40 years. He is a licensed Professional Engineer who was previously an engineering consultant, and is also a retired military officer.

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Warren Waggenspack Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

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Warren N. Waggenspack, Jr. is currently the Associate Dean for Engineering Undergraduates and holder of the Ned Adler Professorship in Mechanical Engineering at Louisiana State University. He obtained both his baccalaureate and master's degrees from LSU ME and his doctorate from Purdue University's School of Mechanical Engineering. He has been actively engaged in teaching, research and curricula development since joining the faculty in 1988.

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Lillian B Bowles Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

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Lillian Bridwell-Bowles is a Professor of English at Louisiana State University and Director of Communication across the Curriculum (CxC). She received her baccalaureate and master's degrees from Florida State University and her doctorate from the University of Georgia.  She has published many articles and books on writing in various disciplines, led a number of successful grants on communication in technical fields, and served as the Chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. She was previously a member of the faculty at the University of Minnesota.

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David Bowles Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

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David Bowles is a Technical Communication Instructor in the Engineering Communication Studio at Louisiana State University. He earned a baccalaureate degree in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a former assistant editor of Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts, and his writing has appeared in a variety of magazines, including River Oak Review, Rainbow Curve, and Red Rock Review.

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Tiffany Walter Choplin Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

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Ms. Choplin is a Technical Communication Instructor in the Engineering Communication Studio at LSU. She earned a bachelor of arts in English and Political Science from the University of Kansas, a master's degree of English from the University of Kansas, and is currently finishing her PhD in English from Louisiana State University. Her primary areas of research include examining the intersection of  pedagogical reform in higher education with writing- or communicating-to-learn principles.

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

An Innovative Model for Teaching Communications Skills In the Engineering Curriculum Key Words: Communication, ABET, Recognition, Assessment

Abstract

In 2005, two events occurred that provided the university with an opportunity to create an innovative model for teaching communication skills in the undergraduate engineering curriculum. The first was a restructuring of the English department resulting in the loss of substantial number of instructors who had taught lower-level composition courses. This made it difficult for our engineering students to obtain technical writing skills demanded by ABET and prospective employers. The second was the creation of a campus-wide communication initiative enabled by a grant from a generous alumnus. A key element of this program dictated that communication skills be integrated into existing courses in the various disciplines. During the ensuing three years, these two events have evolved into an innovative, sustainable model that has yielded substantial benefits for our university, the engineering faculty, and our students.

At the start of our initiative, reservations voiced include such concerns as loss of technical content in the engineering course, workload increase for both students and engineering faculty, and value of results. Meeting these concerns required the development of an intensive workshop for designated faculty, creation of a facility staffed with dedicated professionals and equipped with specialized equipment, and other support mechanisms.

Analysis has shown that the university’s investment in the various elements of our current program compare quite favorably with the costs associated with the number of instructors previously used in teaching writing. Looking beyond the fiscal comparisons, it has been observed that a significant number of additional benefits accrued with this model integrating communication into designated engineering courses of each department. Whereas the previous model focused only on writing, this new approach takes a broader view of communication including an oral and a visual element. Rather than being taught as a general education course across campus, the integrated format for teaching these skills now engages the engineering faculty in a collaborative environment with resources drawn from within the College of Engineering.

We have used a variety of approaches to assess the success of our initiative, including student evaluations, faculty survey, and an external advisory council. Our initial observations, drawn over a three-year period in Senior Capstone Courses, are that students’ understanding of the technical content has increased in the communication-intensive courses. It seems that students’ efforts to communicate technical aspects of their designs, have required better understanding of these aspects, especially when the students are challenged during their oral presentations. Feedback from design review panels and external advisory councils during this same timeframe have been consistently confirming increases in the quality of communication skills for our graduates. These positive results are complemented by data drawn from in house surveys that have clearly shown positive acceptance of this model by both faculty and students.

Hull, W., & Waggenspack, W., & Bowles, L. B., & Bowles, D., & Choplin, T. W. (2009, June), An Innovative Model For Teaching Communication Skills In Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5559

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