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Studies document that engineering students lack opportunities to develop and practice critical skills, such as interpersonal communication, due to limited program choices and curricular constraints. Despite ABET standards and industry needs, which identify communication skills development as a priority, engineering courses do not include targeted and differentiated assignments that allow learners to develop and hone these skills. We tested a guided interpersonal communication exercise for its suitability as a flexible skill building activity that can be repeated and integrated in any engineering course with a team component. We adapted the UNESCO Story Circles methodology to the specific experiences of our undergraduate engineering students to include discipline-specific prompts that structure and guide students’ oral exchanges in teams. 24 students participated in the 75-minute activity in ISYE 3125 “Statistical Quality Control” co-facilitated by the instructor with the help of a Co-PI. Upon completion, students responded to a 27-item, 5-point Likert scale questionnaire and 2 open-ended questions. The questionnaire included four-subscales: attitudes, communication, cultural diversity and teamwork. The overall internal consistency of the questionnaire achieved a satisfactory Cronbach Alpha of .88. All study participants responded very positively to the guided communication exercises (M = 4.03, SD = .36) and respondents’ support bridges participant demographics and course modalities across the four categories. The findings corroborate positive reviews by former participants and facilitators, especially for groups of university students from diverse cultural backgrounds. The findings from the pilot study indicate a positive trajectory: Intentional inclusion of guided, interpersonal communication exercises in engineering courses based on the UNESCO Story Circles methodology is appreciated by learners. The method offers a potential template for broad adoption in engineering programs due to its readily accessible, cost-free, and easily adaptable format for diverse instructional settings.
Ergai, A., & Peterson, S., & Zhan, G., & Smith, S. (2022, August), Improving Communication Skills in Global Engineers: Adapting the UNESCO Story Circles Method in Undergraduate Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/40608
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