June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.780.1 - 11.780.7
Integrating Communication-Intensive Classes and Communication Studios into the Louisiana State University College of Engineering
Should instruction in an engineering college include what some perceive to be the ancillary skills of written and oral communication? Certainly, ensuring that students learn the requisite fundamentals of engineering and its mathematical and scientific underpinnings is already a daunting challenge. In answering this question, the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) developed an outcomes-based accreditation initiative called Engineering Criteria 20001 (EC2000). One of the EC 2000 criteria (Criterion 3 under “Program Outcomes and Assessment”) is the necessity for engineering graduates to demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively.
While considered progressive and innovative, EC2000 was not without its critics. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) completed a one-year study of the implementation of EC20002 that revealed some difficulties with its implementation. One of this study’s observations warrants some particular discussion here. The contribution of an external Advisory Board was described as follows (emphasis added):
Involvement of the program Advisory Board was expressed as a positive result of EC2000. These groups provided a very useful resource to the program in establishing educational objectives and defining associated measurements of student outcomes. The major design experience benefited from board input, particularly with regard to “real world” problems and improvement in communication skills.
One might ask why these representatives from industry have given such emphasis to the need for graduating engineers who have mastered communication skills. We contend that there are three major influences making communication a critical skill for engineers. The first of these is the opportunity for advancement that is afforded engineers in the corporate environment. One need only to look at the senior managers of technology-driven industries to realize that there is a heavy representation of engineers in this group. The ability that allows engineers to move into management is increasingly identified as communication skill. Writing appears to be crucial according to the College Board’s survey3 of 120 major American corporations. In addition, the ability to communicate complex information orally and visually4 is also emerging as a necessary skill for managers in technical fields.
A second major factor contributing to the need for better communication skills is the evolving trend toward multi-disciplinary teams that include many non-engineering participants. The most recent edition of the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook5 summarizes this well:
Hull, W., & Bowles, L. B., & Powell, K., & Waggenspack, W. (2006, June), Integrating Communication Intensive Classes And Communication Studios Into The Louisiana State University College Of Engineering Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1391
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