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Evaluating Communication Skills In An Engineering Curriculum: A Case Study

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Accreditation and Related Issues in ECE

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.578.1 - 9.578.8



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Paper Authors

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Hue Van Tran

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Steven Reyer

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James Friauf

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Owe Petersen

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Katherine Wikoff

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

Session 2004-2532

Evaluating the Communication Component of an Engineering Curriculum: A Case Study Katherine Wikoff, James Friauf, Hue Tran, Steven Reyer, Owe Petersen Milwaukee School of Engineering


This paper describes the evaluation process and findings for teaching and learning of communication skills in the Electrical Engineering Program of the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). While the teaching of both written and oral communication skills are fostered in a wide variety of courses, only writing can be claimed to be substantially integrated into the curriculum. A wide range of settings for the evaluation of these skills is presented. The evaluation focuses on using reading, writing, speaking, and listening as the four core competencies for effective communications. The findings show that reading and listening skills need strengthening. The belief is that those skills are key to exposing students to influences and thoughts beyond themselves, enlarging the capability to express themselves in their writing and speaking.

The Electrical Engineering Program of MSOE requires communication skills to be stressed in various aspects of the entire curriculum and integrated into the syllabi of courses, including technical courses. In part this is a product of the school’s “applications-oriented” educational philosophy, but in part stems also from the goodwill and cooperative dialogue among the faculty of different departments. The team presenting this paper is representative of the Electrical Engineering Program’s interdisciplinary approach to integrating communication skills throughout the curriculum. Three of the authors are professors in the Electrical Engineering Program; two are professors in the General Studies Department, with backgrounds in communication, rhetoric, and literature.

Introduction – Background of the Study

The Electrical Engineering Program’s greatest strength in integrating communication skills throughout the curriculum is its emphasis on practice and performance. At the core of MSOE’s educational philosophy is an “applications-oriented” approach in all classes and laboratories. The process begins in the freshman year, with freshman composition, technical composition, and speech courses. In addition, freshmen take an introductory humanities course that emphasizes interpretation of “texts” (works of literature, film, and fine arts) and written responses to those texts. During the sophomore and junior years, communication practices in science and engineering courses take the form of a variety of reports and some oral presentations. Also, as the students take their humanities and social science electives, they continue to build on the skills of textual interpretation and articulation of a position in response.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Van Tran, H., & Reyer, S., & Friauf, J., & Petersen, O., & Wikoff, K. (2004, June), Evaluating Communication Skills In An Engineering Curriculum: A Case Study Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--14042

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