New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Design in Engineering Education
Clear and precise communication is a fundamental skill that professional engineers need. They employ it while doing engineering, such as interacting on design teams, and while communicating engineered results, such as in technical reports. Furthermore, communication comes in many forms, such as written reports, verbal interactions, documented calculations, and engineering drawings. Consequently, engineering communication is a common element across engineering curricula.
In a previous study we identified that students had difficulty communicating design ideas with their peers on design teams. This difficulty occurred both in their sketching ability and their verbal descriptions of parts and assemblies. Notably, their difficulties with verbal communication directly interfered with their ability to work productively together.
In contrast, design textbooks are either silent or nearly silent on how to verbally describe parts. For example, one popular design textbook briefly mentions that parts can be described semantically and that teams must communicate to collaborate, but does not elaborate on semantic representations. Verbal descriptions of parts seems to lie outside the typical curricular materials for engineering and presumably outside most engineering curricula. Consequently, little practical guidance of what is important to teach in verbal descriptions resides in the engineering design education community.
This current study examines the verbal aspect of students communicating about parts and assemblies. Student participants were asked to describe parts and assemblies of common hardware store items that were physically in their hands. We assumed that describing a physical part, that is in hand, is a fundamental skills. Verbally describing conceptual parts, such as shown in sketches, drawings, or modeled on a CAD system, rely upon the more basic skill of being able to describe a physically existing part.
The intent of this study was to learn how students create descriptions of physical parts and assemblies. Hence the driving question in this study was:
What characterizes students’ descriptions of parts and assemblies that they are physically examining?
This qualitative multiple case study was conducted in an engineering school where seven students were individually video-recorded while describing three separate hardware store items. The video data was analyzed using standard content analysis methods and rich descriptions were written of the students’ approaches to the task. The analysis showed that all students found the task difficult and structured their descriptions idiosyncratically. However, five basic descriptive verbal approaches emerged, which form a naturalistic taxonomy for verbal description. The study concludes with suggestions of how minor adjustments to this naturalistic taxonomy, which could potentially be taught, could create much more precise verbal descriptions.
Zemke, S. C., & Zemke, D. L. (2016, June), How Students Create Verbal Descriptions of Physical Parts Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25480
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: © 2016 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