June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society and Computing & Information Technology
26.787.1 - 26.787.10
Focus on Social Learning in a First-Year Technical Writing Class: a Canadian Case-StudyAbstract: Incorporation of writing assignments into the first-year curriculum is a keyopportunity for engineering educators. The topics of sustainable consumption and design,environmental issues and global engineering were introduced into a first-year engineeringcommunication course in the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia,Vancouver. This successful initiative was further expanded to include writing reflection papers,proposals and research reports on community service learning and sustainable engineeringprojects in developing countries.Purpose: This paper presents a pedagogical approach that strives to combine the use of writingassignments and the focus on social learning. Learning objectives include increasing students’awareness of sustainability and providing them with the opportunity to comment on sustainableengineering design. The paper shows how students explore human and social dimensions ofsustainability and obtain problem-solving experience by considering the perspectives of multiplestakeholders in their reflection papers, proposals and reports.Design/methodology/ approach: An original interdisciplinary approach is employed, with afocus on promoting education for sustainability and global citizenship. The multi-dimensionalmethodology involves action research based on data drawn from observation, surveys,interviews, and discourse analysis of students’ assignments.Findings: Learning to engage in a meaningful dialogue on sustainability and global citizenshiphas a positive impact on students’ creativity and their understanding of their future professionalidentity. Students move from community service projects to the exploration of globalimplications of engineering work.Originality/value: The concept is based on the original idea to use a first-year writing coursefor integrating technical communication with fundamental competencies for engineers. In thisway students learn to value sustainability at the very beginning of their university studies. Newcase studies that are set out in the global context have been developed for the course.Keywords: Writing, Reflection, Professional Identity, Education for sustainable development,Engineering, Communication, Global citizenship, Community service learningSelected References:Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) (2009), “Criteria for accreditingengineering programs. 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(2007), Teaching engineering communication to first year engineering students, available at: cden2007.eng.umanitoba.ca/resources/papers/67.pdfMacLennan, J. (2008), “Why communication matters”, in MacLennan, J. (Ed.), Readings for Technical Communication, Oxford University Press, Don Mills, ON, pp. 4-10.Mihelcic, J., and Trotz, M. (2010), “Sustainability and the environmental engineer: Implicationsfor education, research and practice”, Environmental Engineer: Applied Research and Practice,the Magazine of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, Vol. 10, Winter 2010,pp.27-34.Reave, L. (2004), “Technical communication instruction in engineering schools: A survey oftop-ranked U.S. and Canadian programs”, Journal of Business and Technical Communication,Vol. 18, pp. 452-90.Shulman, L.J., M. Besterfield-Sacre, and J. McGourty. (2005), “The ABET “professional skills” – Can they be taught? Can they be assessed?” Journal of Engineering Education, pp. 41-55.Thomas, I. 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Teslenko, T. (2015, June), Focus on Social Learning in a First-year Technical Writing Class: A Canadian Case Study Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24124
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