June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.238.1 - 13.238.8
Assessment of Students' Oral Communication Skills: Do Students and Workplace Supervisors Rely on General Response Patterns?
This paper reports a test of the hypothesis that students and supervisors rely on a general response pattern when assessing various aspects of oral communication skills. The study is a follow-up to our pilot conducted in 2006; both studies were partially funded by the Engineering Information Foundation. It is important to know whether students and supervisors evaluate each single aspect of oral communication skills individually or that they rely on a general answer pattern. This paper shows that supervisors do not seem to evaluate the various aspects but rather rely on their general impression of the students’ oral communication abilities, while students distinguish between different aspects of oral communication skills when they evaluate their own skills. This is important information, because students will not be able to glean from the supervisors’ assessments which aspects they will need to improve to become better communicators.
This paper reports a test of the hypothesis that students and supervisors rely on a general response pattern when assessing various aspects of oral communication skills. The study is a follow-up to our pilot conducted in 2006; both studies were partially funded by the Engineering Information Foundation. It is important to know whether students and supervisors take the individual items of an instrument seriously when they assess oral communication skills. If they rely on a general answer pattern instead of evaluating the various aspects of oral communication, then students will not be able to glean from the answers which aspects they will need to improve to become better communicators. In other words, then the administering of the instrument will not add much pedagogical value.
As part of a larger project that aims to address the need for improved communication skills for engineering undergraduates, the authors of this paper piloted an oral communication skills instrument with co-op and intern students and their supervisors at the employer site in the summer of 2006. This pilot was reported at the 2007 ASEE national conference.1
Engineering students at Pennsylvania State University take a speech course as part of their general education requirements. As explained in last year’s publication, this course was not very effective in that co-op employers did not give students higher scores on the ability to communicate effectively if they had completed the speech course compared to students who did not complete the course yet. The Engineering Cooperative Education and Professional Internship Program, the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering and the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences have collaborated to develop a speech course geared toward engineering. Results of a pilot with this course will be presented elsewhere in the ASEE proceedings.2
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