New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society and Educational Research and Methods
INTRODUCTION: As society grows more global and interconnected, the challenges that must be addressed by the next generation of engineers are becoming more complex [1-2]. Engineering education is called upon to foster the development of 21st century skills, in addition to teaching deep technical expertise, both of which are needed to lead companies and help communities [3-4]. Reports highlight how crucial communication skills are for engineers [3-8]. This study explores four specific communication capabilities: writing, developing and delivering presentations, visual literacy, and participating in teams and how those communication capabilities develop throughout undergraduate engineering programs. This study investigates the change in self-efficacy in communication between freshmen and senior undergraduate engineers. It includes data from four universities located in the United States and in Asia. We report on changes in confidence between freshmen and senior year, commonalities in students’ self-efficacy for these skills, what they perceive their weaknesses to be, and their goals for strengthening their abilities.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: We hypothesize that students in at varying stages of their academic journey as well as in diverse pedagogical and cultural contexts will report different levels of self-efficacy in communication capabilities. To test our hypothesis, we used mixed methods data collection with a self-efficacy survey for freshmen and senior students. Our specific research question is: In what ways do differences in institutional educational approaches and cultural contexts impact: a. Students’ self-efficacy in communication capabilities? b. Students’ change in self-efficacy for communication capabilities from their (entrance) freshman year as compared to their (graduation) senior year?
METHODOLOGY: We are interested in exploring students’ perceptions of communication, including the value they place on communication and their self-efficacy for communication skills. According to Bandura , success is not only based on the possession of necessary skills, it also requires the confidence to use these skills effectively. We also seek to understand students’ perceptions of the task value of communication.
We use five different data collection techniques: (1) an inventory of the types and frequency of communication experiences and assignments; (2) student surveys to measure self-efficacy for communication with results from a survey administered at the beginning of the students’ course of study compared to results from a survey of seniors; (3) a faculty survey to gauge their confidence in their abilities to teach communication skills and the value they place on communication; (4) stud focus groups; and (5) observations. Our larger research study explores the teaching and learning of those four communication capabilities previously listed but this paper focuses specifically on the findings of the student surveys that indicate changes in self-efficacy between the freshmen year and the senior year.
RESULTS: We analyze the data from the student survey to indicate the level of self-efficacy for communication skills between the freshmen year and the senior year, between genders, pedagogy, and cultures. We include quantitative and qualitative results to support the trends identified. It provides an opportunity for engineering faculty across institutions and internationally to compare effective pedagogical practices and ways of measuring learning for 21st century skills [3-8].
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