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Creating Communicative Self-Efficacy through Integrating and Innovating Engineering Communication Instruction

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Teams, Teaching, Leadership, and Technical Communications in Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Traci M. Nathans-Kelly Cornell University

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Traci Nathans-Kelly, Ph.D., currently teaches full-time at Cornell University in the Engineering Communication Program. She instructs within that program and is seated as a co-instructor for Writing Intensive courses as the engineering communication liaison in ME, BEE, CS, and AEP departments. Outside of Cornell, as a member of IEEE’s Professional Communication Society, she serves as a series editor for the Professional Engineering Communication books and participates at the national level for that organization. Her book, with co-author Christine Nicometo and published with Wiley-IEEE Press, is called _Slide Rules: Design, Build, and Archive Presentations in the Engineering and Technical Fields_ (2014).

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Rick Evans Cornell University

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Sociolinguist and Director of the Engineering Communications Program in the College of Engineering at Cornell University

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One of the most important innovations in teaching engineering communications has been the formation of transformative partnerships, i.e., teaching partnerships and/or partner courses, including both communication and engineering faculty. With that in mind, XX's School of Mechanical Engineering and the College of Engineering’s Engineering Communication Program (ECP) have developed a three-year, sophomore to senior, communication-across-the-curriculum (CxC) plan, called the “ME/ECP Initiative,” to meet the needs of students, faculty, the college, and industry alike.

At its core, the partnership encourages the students' development of communicative self-efficacy in meeting the complex communicative demands related to performing technical work in mechanical engineering. In the Spring of 2016, we partnered a required sophomore-level ME design course as the cornerstone with a newly-developed pilot sophomore engineering communication course. During the prior Fall of 2015, faculty in ME and ECP not only created the syllabi for both, with one complementing, but not answering to, the other; but also designed a mixed-methods study, generating both quantitative and qualitative evidence. We were guided by the university's survey offices and IRB protocols. Throughout the communication course students worked with written, oral, visual, electronic communication modalities. Guiding the selection of genres and modalities were four foundation concepts related to engineering communication: communicative practice, context, communicative design, and engineering identity.

The incredible success of Year1’s quantitative findings will be outlined in full. For example, in response to our communicative self-efficacy survey, the scores across all modalities increased substantially (changing from low-medium to mid-high range) for all the students taking the pilot. In addition, on 17 of the 23 items on the survey, 80% of the pilot students scored in the high range. In the baseline survey of ME students not taking the pilot, only 36.8 % students score in the high range and then only on three items. As well, early indicators from Year2 will be included.

With that success came the approval to continue the project. Now in Year2, it is the intent of the ME/ECP Initiative to now also continually reinforce students’ emerging communication competencies within already-standing junior and senior-level ME courses with an eye towards pre-professional communicative readiness. For the 2017 ASEE meeting, we will describe the initiative, those foundational concepts, the mixed-methods approach to assessment, and the quantitative results for the first two years of this initiative.

Nathans-Kelly, T. M., & Evans, R. (2017, June), Creating Communicative Self-Efficacy through Integrating and Innovating Engineering Communication Instruction Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28082

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