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I Should Not be Expected to Teach English!...But

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Mechanical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.682.1 - 24.682.17



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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. He integrates communication skill activity into all courses within the mechanical Engineering program. He is editor of the CEED Newsbriefs and has co-authored numerous textbooks, including - Engineering Your Future.

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Pavel M. Polunin Michigan State University

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Pavel Polunin is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering Department at Michigan State University. He obtained his M.S. in 2013 from Michigan State University. Currently, he conducts research in the area of nonlinear dynamics of noise-driven microresonators.

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I Should Not be Expected to Teach English!...ButThis paper focusses on a growing need for members of all engineering departments to address a need that issteadily increasing because of the large number of international students entering the undergraduate ranks.While the number of graduate students has always been high in most US institutions, there have never beenthe current numbers of international students in the university populations at the undergraduate level. Thisaffects not only classroom size and the load on faculty, it presents a difficulty in many cases on both theunderstanding of English and the production of competent text by those students. This current climate doesnot show any lessening, therefore it is important for faculty to be given techniques that will help them in theirclassrooms. Instead of simply discussing how technical matters are conveyed, it becomes critical forengineering faculty to express to their colleagues the various ways in which they use written and oralcommunication techniques in their courses and how those methods have provided a better learningexperience for their students both domestic and international. There is also an equal responsibility fordepartment chairpersons to further the dissemination of communication skill information to their departmentmembers. Individual faculty members should also think beyond the assignments that are given to students toissues that are raised in their own writing and speaking. These activities are important to students so that theycan see the necessity of communicating well for their future success. Students will more readily accept thepremise that communication is a vital part of an engineer's life if they are given that information along withtheir technical material and in the context that college professors have to spend a great amount of timewriting, too.The 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., & Polunin, P. M. (2014, June), I Should Not be Expected to Teach English!...But Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20573

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