June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
22.875.1 - 22.875.20
Informed Influence: Preparing Graduate Engineers to Present with Power instead of just PowerPoint This session will triangulate three sources to propose stronger techniques for engineers and technical experts who use presentation slides as part of their work output. For our assertions, we will draw from 1) practicing engineers who participated in interviews for a three-‐year NSF sponsored study on how people learn engineering (n=56); 2) practicing engineers enrolled in two online, graduate, professional engineering programs (n=60+); and 3) the work of experts including cognitive psychologists and visual rhetoric experts that has focused on the slide format in professional settings. Building on the findings from our NSF study of practicing engineers, that community voiced clear value for communication skills above all other skills enacted by their engineering colleagues. When we culled through the deeper information inside those responses, communication, as a skill, became more specifically defined. Practicing engineers listed qualities such as an ability to see the big picture or to be a systems level thinker as integral to being a successful engineer. As well, being a willing communicator and being a sincere listener were often-‐cited qualities. As researchers, this window to the qualities that practicing, successful engineers valued prompted us to decidedly translate this data into our own teaching of graduate engineering students about presentation practices. We applied this systems level approach to our presentation instruction when teaching a Masters-‐level online communication course to practicing engineers. Therein, we witnessed some extremely positive results in their abilities to influence others in their organizations and be heard through their technical presentations. A deeper understanding of the audience’s needs, which is often stated as less technical content and more organizational prowess, has led these student professionals to success. When formulating lessons and activities regarding professional engineering presentations, we heavily employ Richard Meyer’s and John Sweller’s work in cognitive psychology and multimedia learning to teach a new model of technical presentation visual (slideware) use to our students. We also expose our student professionals to other researchers/writers (including Alley, Tufte, Atkins, Duarte, Doumont) who are informing best practices in the use of multimedia theory and presentation design. Our interpretation and enactment of their findings, combined with our methods for retooling engineering presentations, has worked well on several fronts for our practicing engineers; techniques include malleable methods of deploying sentence headers, rhetorical visuals, layering of information, and archival organizational notes, amongst others. By combining what the practicing engineers tell us are valued skills in their organizations with findings from cutting edge work in cognitive psychology, we have seen improvements from our own graduate engineering students (who are practicing professionals) in our technical communication courses. These improvements have been reported by their own managers and colleagues and are highlighted as evidence for the success of these methodologies. Based on the detailed feedback from numerous engineering managers who employ our graduate students, these alternative strategies are answering the need for stronger communicators voiced in our NSF study results. We will report on details of these strategies and share feedback from the field to support our claims of success.
Nicometo, C. G., & Nathans-Kelly, T. M. (2011, June), Informed Influence: Preparing Graduate Engineers to Present with Power Instead of Just PowerPoint Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/18168
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