Asee peer logo

An Investigation Of The Communication Culture Of An Introductory Chemical Engineering Class

Download Paper |


2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.104.1 - 5.104.6



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Wade Kenny

author page

Kevin Myers

author page

Heather Cornell

Download Paper |

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

Section 2613

An Investigation of the Organizational Communication Culture of an Introductory Chemical Engineering Class

Heather Cornell, Wade Kenny, and Kevin Myers University of Dayton

I. The Challenge

Chemical Engineering courses are often difficult for students. Among the multitude of reasons accounting for this difficulty are communication issues – what scholar I. A. Richards would call “stud[ies] of misunderstanding and its remedies1.” That is, questions arise such as: what communication “works” for students?; what communication is ineffective in helping students learn?; and how does communication contribute to the overall learning environment in which students must operate? To answer these questions, the following study is being conducted.

This investigation seeks to use ethnographic research (study by immersion) to identify an organizational communication culture for an introductory chemical engineering classroom. Additionally, the study will identify how students and the instructor work within the culture they are constructing to achieve the syllabus goals of “develop[ing] basic skills of chemical engineering analysis,” “learn[ing] the language of chemical engineering,” and “hav[ing] some fun2.” Finally, the ways that male and female students affect and are affected by the culture will be explored.

II. Literature Review

An organization can be defined as the “interlocked actions of a collectivity [a group]3.” Pettigrew4 described culture as “the system of publicly and collectively accepted meanings operating for a given group at a given time. This system…interprets a people’s own situation to themselves.” Alternatively, Wood5 defines culture as the “structures and practices that uphold a particular social order by legitimizing certain values, expectations, meanings, and patterns of behavior.”

The engineering culture under examination in this study will be identified through an analysis of the rituals, passions, politics, and enculturation processes used by organization members. These elements are manifested in the stories or “symbolic actions – words and/or deeds – that have a sequence and meaning for those who live, create, or interpret them6.” These stories will be gathered through classroom observation and through interviews with the students themselves.

Pacanowsky and O’Donnell-Trujillo7 articulate five reasons for using an organizational culture approach to study an organization. Among these, two are: the end result will be an account of the fullness of the organizational culture, rather than a functional interpretation of problems and potential solutions, and each study can provide an overall picture of the organization for its members.

These issues are particularly relevant to the proposed study. While there is much devoted to investigating ways to improve the quality of engineering education, the majority of research tends to focus on bits and pieces of the classroom. With the exception of Tonso8, research has

Kenny, W., & Myers, K., & Cornell, H. (2000, June), An Investigation Of The Communication Culture Of An Introductory Chemical Engineering Class Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8518

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2000 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015