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Improving Engineering Students' Technical Communication Skills

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Communication: From Pecha Kucha to Bullets

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.834.1 - 22.834.9



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Paper Authors


Kenneth R. Leitch West Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kenneth R. Leitch, P.E., is an Assistant Professor of civil engineering in the Department of Engineering and Computer Science at West Texas A&M University. He holds B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering from New Mexico State University and an M.B.A. from Colorado Christian University. Dr. Leitch is actively involved in engineering education, 3-D modeling, material testing, structural, and transportation-related research.

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Rhonda B Dittfurth West Texas A&M University

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Master of Fine Arts in Communications from West Texas A&M University; Graduate studies in History (emphasize in Education and Material Culture)from West Texas A&M University; Bachelors of Science in Mass Communications/Journalism (emphasize in Public Relations) from West Texas State University.
Outreach Coordinator for the WTAMU Department of Engineering and Computer Science, duties including the design and conducting of outreach to area primary and secondary schools, organization and coordination of a summer engineering camp along with workshops for secondary teachers and professional engineers. Part time instructor for the WTAMU Department of Communications, duties including teaching of a basic communications class.

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Freddie J Davis P.E. West Texas A&M University

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Improving Engineering Students’ Technical Communication SkillsThe ABET 2000 Criterion 3g states that engineering programs must educate students with “anability to communicate effectively.” Surveys of engineering graduates and current students atWest Texas A&M University (WTAMU) indicate that there is a desire on behalf of the studentsto experience more technical communication opportunities within engineering coursework.Traditionally, written and oral communication instruction has been conducted in a formal settingwithin the required three course sequence of ENGL 1301 (Introduction to Academic Writing andArgumentation), ENGL 2311 (Introduction to Professional and Technical Communication), andCOMM 1315 (Basic Speech Communication) as part of the university’s core educationalrequirements.The authors, working in conjunction with the Communication and the Engineering andComputer Science Departments, respectively, have identified methodologies to improve andreinforce technical communication skills in the engineering curricula. While communicationinstruction has been an important part of the university education process, this current initiativestrives to focus on the study and improvement of technical communication skills throughoutengineering coursework requirements. This reflects the need of employers for engineers withstrong communication skills and the desire of our students to improve said skills. Threeengineering courses have been targeted for the initiative: ENGR 1201 (Fundamentals ofEngineering), ET 2371 (Metals and Ceramics), and ET 1171 (Engineering Ethics). The first twocourses have a laboratory component while the third is a course created in direct response toABET Criterion 3f (an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility); all three coursescontain significant written and oral communication requirements. These three courses are alsocommon to the civil, mechanical, and engineering technology programs in the Engineering andComputer Science Department at WTAMU. Additionally, a section of COMM 1315 has alsobeen targeted to participate in a common assignment with the ENGR 1201 course.This paper will examine student self-assessment and instructor assessment before and aftercompletion of the targeted engineering courses as well as for the common written technicalcommunication assignment shared between the selected COMM 1315 and ENGR 1201 classes.Preliminary results of this multiyear initiative indicate measureable improvement in students’application of technical communication skills in the targeted engineering courses.

Leitch, K. R., & Dittfurth, R. B., & Davis, F. J. (2011, June), Improving Engineering Students' Technical Communication Skills Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18115

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