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Can We Talk? Discerning and Engaging Discourse Differences Across Disciplines

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Advances in Communication Instruction

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.281.1 - 25.281.13



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Paper Authors


Beth Bateman Newborg University of Pittsburgh

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Beth Bateman Newborg was one of the initiators of the University of Pittsburgh's English/Freshman Engineering Writing program, and has served as the Program's Director for the past 10 years. Newborg also teaches the upper-level Communication Skills for Engineers course at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering and serves as the Outreach Director for Pitt's Writing Center. Newborg has extensive experience as a teacher of professional writing and as a writing consultant in the technical, public policy, and legal fields. With more than 20 years experience in teaching and curriculum development across disciplines and schools, Newborg has an abiding interest in how students and faculty approach and benefit from interdisciplinary initiatives and studies. In addition to teaching, curriculum development,and outreach at Pitt, Newborg is a published poet.

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Teresa L. Larkin American University


Dan Budny University of Pittsburgh

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Dan Budny holds a joint appointment as Associate Professor in the School of Civil Engineering and the Director of the Freshmen Engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh. His research area is in the development of programs that assist entering freshmen students by providing counseling and cooperative learning environments for students in their first and second semester freshmen engineering courses. He has numerous publications in this and other engineering education areas. Budny is very active in the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) within the Freshmen Programs and the Educational Research and Methods divisions, and is on the ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Board and the ASEE board of directors. Budny also conducts numerous teaching workshops both at the university and other locations. Contact him at

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Can We Talk? Faculty Outcomes of Integrating Liberal Arts, Science, and Engineering Paradigms 
Experience with cross-disciplinary programs such as the writing intensive interdisciplinaryprogram/school not named for blind submission and the writing intensive physics course,interdisciplinary course/school not named for blind submission has shown that students reapmultiple benefits from the “hands on” integration of liberal arts and science/engineering. If auniversities’ investments in learning across disciplines is to continue to develop and flourish,however, we, as faculty, must consistently and enthusiastically do what we ask our students todo: respect, gain expertise in, and integrate multiple discourses, principles, and modes ofobservation and investigation. We will approach this paper’s title, “Can We Talk,” quite literally,asking about the ways in which “we”—science/engineering faculty and faculty in the liberalarts/writing – can maximize our ability to meaningfully communicate with each other to bestserve our students and to engage in dynamic professional development. This paper will detail, forexample, how a liberal arts/writing teacher’s increased fluency with the language used to create,describe and evaluate a computer program or to address a statics problem allows her to optimizeher engineering students’ “writing to learn” interest and performance, and allows her toproductively engage and critique the customary language and modes of her own discipline. Thepaper will explore and report on how an engineering instructor’s familiarity with writing as aninvestigation of self and society enables him to support his freshman engineering studentsthrough rigorous inquiry that has no “right answer, ”and allows him to best articulate tocolleagues, within and beyond his immediate discipline, the value and outcomes of humanities-based inquiry. We will examine how a physics instructor’s familiarity with principles andpractices of clarity and accountability in writing allows her to further demonstrate, for herstudents, the importance of accuracy and responsibility in lab or bench work, and allows her tomaximize the possibility of further successful interdisciplinary inquiry and courses in thesciences and the arts. Through consideration of current theoretical frameworks regardinglearning across disciplines, and by drawing, in detail, on practices and outcomes of faculty whospend considerable professional time and energy “talking” and teaching across disciplines, “ CanWe Talk” will cover how significant conversation, which appreciates and incorporates languagesof very different, even seemingly antithetical, disciplines significantly contributes to studentsuccess and to professional growth.

Newborg, B. B., & Larkin, T. L., & Budny, D. (2012, June), Can We Talk? Discerning and Engaging Discourse Differences Across Disciplines Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21039

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