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Assessing the Value of Different Techniques for Teaching Technical Communication Skills

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Writing and Communication

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Amanda Simson University of New Haven Orcid 16x16

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Amanda Simson was appointed Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering in August 2015. Her research focuses on using heterogeneous catalysis in applications like emissions control and alternative energy technologies. Amanda received her Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering in May of 2013. Simson’s work at Columbia focused on developing more efficient hydrogen production processes for PEM fuel cells and her work was sponsored by BASF. Before joining the staff at UNH she spent two years developing hydrogen production technologies for Watt Fuel Cell in Port Washington, NY.

Dr. Simson is very interested in improving educational opportunities for students in STEM. Prior to her PhD studies Dr. Simson taught middle school for three years as part of the Teach for America program and helped found the first Democracy Prep Charter School. She has developed several programs for students including a series of math competitions for NYC middle school students and a chemistry card game called Valence.

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Judy Randi Ed.D. University of New Haven


Amanda Lynn Becker University of New Haven

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Currently a graduate student in the Master of Art in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the University of New Haven with a concentration in Organizational Development and Consultation. I am a graduate assistance in the College of Engineering at University of New Haven in Connecticut.

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Assessing the value of different techniques for teaching technical communication skills

In 2010, the University of New Haven launched an effort called PITCH: The Project to Integrate Technical Communication Habits, to improve the technical communication skills of students. In its first four years, the program developed specific learning objectives, trained faculty, and created specific PITCH assignments and rubrics that were incorporated into four common engineering courses; two in the freshman year, one in the sophomore year, and one in the senior year. The program improved students writing skills, as shown by an assessment completed in the Fall of 2015. Excepting the assignments and evaluation rubrics, specific curriculum has not year been deployed. In an effort to guide the development of this curriculum, in this study we evaluate student feedback on different teaching techniques used to teach technical communication skills including: online modules, writing-specific assignment feedback, in-class lectures on best practices, and a revision cycle facilitated by small writing groups with both the professor of engineering and a writing instructor. The study was done in a chemical engineering laboratory course, where students wrote technical memos based on the results of experimental work. In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of different teaching techniques, students used a rubric to self-assess their progress in communication skills. Instructors used the same rubric to provide students' feedback and evaluate their progress. At the end of the semester, students reflected on the most influential tools that improved their writing skills, providing valuable feedback for the direction of writing and communication curriculum in engineering.

PITCH is supported by a grant from The Davis Educational Foundation.

Simson, A., & Randi, J., & Becker, A. L. (2017, June), Assessing the Value of Different Techniques for Teaching Technical Communication Skills Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27628

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