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I Ain't No English Teacher

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society (LEES) Poster Session

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.676.1 - 23.676.20

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Paper Authors


Craig J. Gunn Michigan State University

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Craig Gunn is the director of the Communication Program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University. His duties include the integration of communication skill activity into all courses within the Mechanical Engineering program, including overseas experiences. He works closely with the Cooperative Engineering Education Division of the College of Engineering to monitor the communication skills of students who co-op during their college years. He is currently the editor of the Cooperative and Experiential Education Division Newsbriefs and is co-author of a number of textbooks focusing on engineering freshmen orientation. He has spent almost 25 years at Michigan State University and for the past twelve years has co-chaired the MSU Community Charitable Campaign. His favorite activity is sponsoring the annual College of Engineering Poetry Forum at MSU.

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I Ain’t No English Teacher!AbstractThe promise of articulate engineers able to construct concise papers directing their audiences toexact interpretations is the wish of all engineering departments. Engineers who are both well versedin their areas of expertise and able to convey this information have been a goal of colleges ofengineering for decades. English departments on every campus in the country have performed thetask of giving information on writing and sometimes presentation skills to engineering students on aone or two class basis. This one-time basis has constituted an engineer's indoctrination intocommunication skills (mostly attached to skills oriented to the arts and letters). Once this internshipis over, the experience (whether good or bad) is placed behind (usually on a cold, back burner), andthe engineers immerse themselves in their technical study, usually devoid of communication skillconcern. The time has arrived for a simple fact to be made known. The most important role modelsin the area of communication skills are individuals who have always been in the engineeringstudent's sight, the engineering professors. Professors in the engineering departments, as in mostmajors, are the focal point of their students, and their words far outdistance comments fromindividuals outside the major area. By uniting the faculty in a concerted effort to explore andimprove communication skills, both engineering students and the world in general will profit. Byanalyzing what is done in each course in the engineer's major, by creating a continuum ofcommunication skill instruction and evaluation in every department, and by utilizing in-place(through careful discussion) technical assignments to emphasize needed communication; theengineering student will be more willing to accept and investigate the need for communicationskills.This paper addresses a widely ignored fact, “Engineering professors ARE English teachers!” Theydo not teach literature or the structure of the novel. They do not provide grammar quizzes everyFriday. And they certainly don’t give popular movie reviews of all the shows they watched on agiven weekend. On the other hand, they spend a great deal of their professional lives writing journalarticles and conference papers, reviewing articles written by other faculty, and being the mentors foruntold numbers of theses and dissertations. It would be an interesting study to see how many facultymembers never had a comment on those above theses and dissertations. Life as an engineeringfaculty member requires the writing and review of two major documents, the thesis and thedissertation. Even the youngest assistant professor has been closely connected to writing aspectacular document and what it means to do so.Faculty members should think beyond the technical assignments that are given to students to issuesthat are raised in their own writing and speaking. These activities are important to students so thatthey can see the necessity of communicating well for their future success. Students will morereadily accept the premise that communication is a vital part of an engineer's life if they are giventhat information along with their technical material and in the context that college professors have tospend a great amount of time writing, too.This paper will look at the kinds of information that can be imparted to undergraduates throughsurveys of faculty on the variety of items that require change in those graduate theses anddissertations. Surveys will also be provided to address the students’ attitudes toward being givencommunication suggestions from engineering faculty.

Gunn, C. J. (2013, June), I Ain't No English Teacher Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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