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Integration Of Critical Thinking And Technical Communication Into Undergraduate Laboratory Courses

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.253.1 - 2.253.8

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Pradeep K. Agrawal

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1213

Integration of Critical Thinking and Technical Communication into Undergraduate Laboratory Courses

Pradeep K. Agrawal School of Chemical Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology

The ability to communicate technical concepts well distinguishes an outstanding engineer from a merely competent one. Widespread consensus holds that writing should form an integral part of an engineering education, but there is considerable debate over how best to achieve this goal. Most engineering programs require courses in technical writing and oral presentations through their English departments. While these courses can provide useful instruction, they inevitably suffer from certain drawbacks. First, these courses teach students one, optimal approach to technical writing and speaking, overlooking the significant differences that exist in the ways that engineers in various domains communicate technical information. Second, the courses seldom provide students with adequate, targeted training (or exercises). Third, the courses do not address critical thinking concepts or apply critical thinking to discipline-specific issues and/or examples.

The concept of critical thinking is sorely lacking in the contemporary education of technical communication. The technical communication courses provide instructions driven by format. Also, the feedback and evaluation pr.ocedures focus on text mechanics. This approach is inadequate because writing is kept separate from thinking. The popular approach assumes that (i) writing skills are static, (ii) students have mastered their subject matter, and (iii) students have solved the “audience puzzle.”

This paper argues for the unique benefits of maintaining an in-house writing program for undergraduate - and graduate - level engineering students. It holds that only an in-house program can integrate technical content with writing and critical thinking to teach students. This paper focuses specifically on our efforts to incorporate these features into our undergraduate laboratory courses. The benefits of such an approach are several-fold: (i) conceptual environment is stable, (ii) reports address pertinent and challenging problems, and (iii) the approach emphasizes critical thinking, training students to focus on the core questions that drive scientific method.

The School of Chemical Engineering at Georgia Tech

Originally established as a state engineering school in 1885, Georgia Tech has been regarded as one of the best technological universities in the nation. The School of Chemical Engineering at Georgia Tech was established in 1901, making it one of the first such programs in the country.

Agrawal, P. K. (1997, June), Integration Of Critical Thinking And Technical Communication Into Undergraduate Laboratory Courses Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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