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Board 86: Using Improvisational Acting Techniques to Improve the Oral Communication Skills of STEM Graduate Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Brock J. LaMeres Montana State University

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Dr. Brock J. LaMeres is a Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Montana State University (MSU) and the Director of the Montana Engineering Education Research Center (MEERC). LaMeres is also the Boeing Professor at MSU where he is responsible for initiatives to improve the professional skills of engineering graduates. LaMeres teaches and conducts research in the area of computer engineering. LaMeres is currently studying the effectiveness of online delivery of engineering content with emphasis on how the material can be modified to provide a personalized learning experience. LaMeres is also researching strategies to improve student engagement and how they can be used to improve diversity within engineering. LaMeres received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has published over 90 manuscripts and 5 textbooks in the area of digital systems and engineering education. LaMeres has also been granted 13 US patents in the area of digital signal propagation. LaMeres is a member of ASEE, a Senior Member of IEEE, and a registered Professional Engineer in the States of Montana and Colorado. Prior to joining the MSU faculty, LaMeres worked as an R&D engineer for Agilent Technologies in Colorado Springs, CO where he designed electronic test equipment.

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Bryce E. Hughes Montana State University Orcid 16x16

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Bryce E. Hughes is an Assistant Professor in Adult and Higher Education at Montana State University, and holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as an M.A. in Student Development Administration from Seattle University and a B.S. in General Engineering from Gonzaga University. His research interests include teaching and learning in engineering, STEM education policy, and diversity and equity in STEM.

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Chris Organ

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Communicating technical content to a non-technical audience is becoming a highly sought-after skill within the STEM workforce and also a critical component of the general well-being of society. STEM-related innovations fuel the modern economy and are increasingly becoming embedded in everyone’s lives. When STEM knowledge is created and used to develop systems that impact society, it is critical that the population at large understand how STEM research is funded, how it is critical to society, and how if left unchecked, its unintended side-effects can lead to problems on a scale that can seem insurmountable. When the non-STEM population does not have a general understanding of the STEM field, it leads to a void in scientific engagement within the citizenship and results in a population that does not strongly support nor champion STEM-related policies. This can lead to a STEM community that is susceptible to influence by either ill-informed or ill-intentioned polices that can be designed for the benefit of a small portion of society at the expense of the majority. In this paper we describe an on-going project that aims to increase the oral communication skills of STEM graduate students by creating a training program that pulls knowledge on listener engagement from the improvisational acting community. The program, called STEM Storytellers, puts the onus of educating the non-STEM population on the STEM community itself. Instead of trying to make the entire population STEM experts, this program seeks to create a STEM workforce that can communicate critical information to a non-STEM audience. This program is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Trainee (NRT) program within the Innovations in Graduate Education (IGT) track. This program is currently in its first year at a medium-sized land grant institution. This paper will describe the first-year activities including a fellowship program where STEM graduate students are trained by an improv acting troop on engaging storytelling techniques, components of a compelling story, and reducing technical jargon. This paper will be of interest to STEM faculty that wish to improve graduate student oral communication skills and are seeking novel programs that are being pilot tested at other universities.

LaMeres, B. J., & Hughes, B. E., & Organ, C. (2019, June), Board 86: Using Improvisational Acting Techniques to Improve the Oral Communication Skills of STEM Graduate Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32447

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