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Assessment of Communication Skills During an NSF REU Program Related to Sustainable Management of Wastes and Byproducts

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.258.1 - 26.258.17



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Paper Authors


Amro El Badawy California Polytechnic State University

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Dr. Amro El Badawy is the W.M. Keck Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Global Waste Research Institute at Cal Poly.

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James L. Hanson California Polytechnic State University

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Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department

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Nazli Yesiller Global Waste Research Institute, California Polytechnic State University


Gregg L. Fiegel California Polytechnic State University

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Gregg L. Fiegel is a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo. He is a registered Professional Engineer in California, and he currently serves the Interim Director of the University Honors Program. Dr. Fiegel received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Cal Poly in 1990. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Davis in 1992 and 1995, respectively.

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Kevin Brian Kopp California Polytechnic State University

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Assessment of Communication Skills during an NSF REU Program Related to Sustainable Management of Wastes and ByproductsAbstractA National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site wasestablished through the Global Waste Research Institute (GWRI) at California Polytechnic StateUniversity (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo to engage participants in research related to sustainablemanagement of wastes and byproducts. Project themes included waste containment, waste-to-energy conversion, remediation of contaminated sites, sustainable underground construction, andbeneficial reuse of byproducts in geotechnical engineering applications. The principalinvestigators, faculty researchers, and graduate student mentors have assessed various programand participant activities with an emphasis on participant communication skills (oral, written,and graphical modes). Assessments were conducted throughout various phases of the summerresearch experience. Tools used for assessment included: learning style and communicationstyle surveys, incremental and final assessment surveys, weekly journal entries, reflectionexercises, peer reviews, and documentation of experimental procedures and results as a summaryreport. Several activities in the program involved the use of different learning styles such asgraphics-only and quick oral-only communication exercises. These learning-style-specificexercises were also assessed for student performance and pedagogical effectiveness. Overall, theemphasis on communication in this program has resulted in marked improvement of thecommunication skills of the participating undergraduates. Additionally, the paper describes theauthors’ experiences developing program content and assessing student communicationsassociated with the REU Site at the GWRI. Assessment results have been collected over twoconsecutive program years (summer 2013 and summer 2014). Challenges encountered andstrategies for successfully incorporating these methodologies and assessment tools are presented.

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