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Communication Pedagogy In The Engineering Classroom: A Report On Faculty Practices And Perceptions

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Liberal Education and Leadership

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.340.1 - 14.340.11



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Paper Authors


Julia Williams Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Julia M. Williams is Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment & Professor of English at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana. Her articles on writing assessment, electronic portfolios, ABET, and tablet PCs have appeared in the Technical Communication Quarterly, Technical Communication: Journal of the Society for Technical Communication, The International Journal of Engineering Education, Journal of Engineering Education, and The Impact of Tablet PCs and Pen-based Technology on Education. She is the recipient of the 2007 HP Technology for Teaching Award and the 2008 Rose-Hulman Board of Trustees Outstanding Scholar Award.

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Richard House Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Richard House is Associate Professor of English at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he teaches courses in literature as well as technical and scientific rhetoric. He is currently studying the environmental sustainability movement and its effects on American higher education, and serves on Rose-Hulman’s Sustainability Team.

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Anneliese Watt Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Anneliese Watt is Associate Professor of English and Course Coordinator for the Technical and Professional Communication course at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where she has taught since 1999. Previous research has included the Professional Engineering Genres Project, and her focuses include engineering communication and rhetorical analysis. She is currently serving as Program Co-Chair for the IEEE Professional Communication Society Conference (IPCC 2009).

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

Communication Pedagogy in the Engineering Classroom: A Report on Faculty Practices and Perceptions


The purpose of this project was to analyze engineering faculty’s communication pedagogy in the engineering classroom. We have surveyed engineering faculty at a variety of institutions to determine to what degree they incorporate communication into their technical classes. The project included the development of an electronic survey instrument that collected responses from engineering faculty at programs and departments in the United States. In addition to the survey results, we conducted focus groups with small groups of faculty, both at our institution and at the site of the 2008 Frontiers in Education Conference, in order to dig deeper into the data collected. The conclusions we draw from analysis of the survey and focus group results indicate that engineering faculty have incorporated communication more frequently into their technical courses but that they are motivated to do so primarily from motivations having to do with helping their students model professional practice.

Project Rationale: EC 2000 and Professional Skills

Adopted in 1996, ABET, Inc. Engineering Criteria 2000 promised to transform engineering education in two fundamental ways. First, EC 2000 expanded the definition of engineering competencies to place much greater emphasis on “professional skills, such as solving unstructured problems, communicating effectively, and working in teams.”1 Second, the new criteria “shifted the basis for accreditation from inputs, such as what is taught, to outputs—what is learned.” 1 These two changes were expected to be transformative: “program changes would reshape students’ educational experiences inside and outside the classroom, which would in turn enhance student learning.” 1

Engineering communication was positioned to receive particular benefit from the replacement of the old ABET criteria, which had largely evaluated engineering curricula by the total course hours devoted to distinct subject areas. That system had enforced a firm distinction between technical curriculum and instruction in the humanities and social sciences—offering no particular credit for instruction that successfully bridged the divide between liberal education and professional engineering practice. ABET’s system did recognize the existence of professionally relevant non-technical subjects—naming “ethical, social, economic, and safety considerations in engineering practice”—but marginalized them in a system devised around the division of the curricular pie. “Course work may be provided for this purpose,” the criteria specified, “but as a minimum it should be the responsibility of the engineering faculty to infuse professional

Williams, J., & House, R., & Watt, A. (2009, June), Communication Pedagogy In The Engineering Classroom: A Report On Faculty Practices And Perceptions Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5444

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015