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Communication Apprehension In Undergraduate Engineering Students: The Influence Of Performing Arts Participation

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.372.1 - 12.372.10



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Paper Authors

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William Lee University of South Florida


Douglas Lunsford University of South Florida

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Douglas Lunsford is a PhD student in educational methods and has worked on a number of engineering educational research projects.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Communication apprehension in undergraduate students: The influence of performing arts participation


Engineering students often display varying levels of communication apprehension (CA) when it comes to communication situations such as meeting participation, group discussions, presentations, and general public speaking. This study investigated the potential positive role that previous participation in the performing arts (instrumental and vocal music, theater, and dance) had on CA in freshmen/sophomore engineering students. A hypothesis of this study was that such participation would manifest in lower levels of CA since participating students would have had to face CA, performance anxiety, and related phobias prior to college entry. The Personal Report of Communication Apprehension was employed in this study, combined with a self-reported inventory of middle school and high school participation in the performing arts. The results indicated that students who had previous performing arts participation had significantly lower levels of CA relative to students who had no such participation. The possible benefits of engineering/performing arts interactions in terms of addressing CA is also addressed.


Many engineering students deal with some form of communication apprehension (CA), with the more severe experiences often centered around public speaking and presentations. Other investigators have used the phrase “communication anxiety” as synonymous with communication apprehension; we will adopt the “apprehension” definition. Recognizing that communication skills are indeed an important skill for engineering graduates, ABET includes “the ability to communicate effectively” (criterion “g” of the “a-k” criteria - ABET 2007-20081). With the advent of the 21st century, communication effectiveness has received even more attention as the concept of the “global engineer” influences the engineering profession2. Many engineering programs address communication skills through a specific required course in communications, often administered by a non-engineering department (see reference 3 for an overview of communication in current engineering curricula). Such a course will typically address both nonverbal and verbal communication skills. However, it is well recognized that communication skills must be integrated into the engineering curriculum to be effective4. For many institutions, where written communication is often a significant activity in engineering courses, verbal communication skills (individual and group-related activities) are often rather limited. As a result, employers of engineering graduates often cite low skill levels in public speaking/presentations as a significant problem.

McCroskey defines communication anxiety as: “an individual’s level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons”5. Richmond and McCroskey have identified four categories of CA: 1) traitlike CA which relates to personality orientation (which reflects both genetics and environment); 2) context-based CA which relates to a specific communication mode such as public speaking; 3) audience-based CA which reflects the specific audience being addresses (for example, peer-to-peer may be less stressful than employee to management team); and 4) situational CA which focuses on very

Lee, W., & Lunsford, D. (2007, June), Communication Apprehension In Undergraduate Engineering Students: The Influence Of Performing Arts Participation Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2508

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