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Mapping Technical Writing Across the Civil Engineering Curriculum

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Conference

ASEE-NE 2022

Location

Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts

Publication Date

April 22, 2022

Start Date

April 22, 2022

End Date

April 23, 2022

Page Count

2

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/42189

Download Count

11

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Paper Authors

biography

Katie Heckman U.S. Coast Guard Academy

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Lieutenant Katie Heckman (nee Schumacher) graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. Following graduation, she spent six weeks at the Saratoga Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, completing three seminar courses in military leadership. Lieutenant Heckman’s first assignment was onboard the USCGC MIDGETT from 2012-2014, homeported in Seattle, Washington. Her duties included Engineer Officer in Training and Auxiliary Division Officer. Upon completion of Lieutenant Heckman’s afloat tour, she was selected for civil engineering postgraduate school, attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In 2015, Lieutenant Heckman graduated with a Master of Science degree in Engineering.

Upon graduation, Lieutenant Heckman was stationed at the Civil Engineering unit in Cleveland. From 2016-2018 she worked in the Regional Execution Branch as a Construction Project Manager for District 5 and District 9 units. From 2018-2019, Lieutenant Heckman served in Tactical Operations Product Line, responsible for managing 2,950 aviation, waterfront, and shore operations assets valued at over $7 billion.

Lieutenant Heckman’s current position is Civil Engineering Instructor at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. She resides in New London, CT with her husband, Kevin, and cat, Lulu Belle. She also started doing foster care in 2020. When not working, she enjoys running, cooking, and playing piano.

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Corinna Marie Fleischmann P.E. United States Coast Guard Academy

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Captain Corinna Fleischmann holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Connecticut, a M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy from which she graduated in 1998. She holds a professional engineering license in the state of Florida and a certification as a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor through the National Sustainable Building Advisors Program.
CAPT Fleischmann joined the faculty at USCGA in 2004 and was selected as a member of the Permanent Commissioned Teaching Staff in 2009. Her research focuses on mitigation of impacts of stormwater in the urban environment and undergraduate engineering education. While at the Academy, she has been an assistant coach on the men’s and women’s swim teams, faculty affiliate for the women’s softball team, advisor for numerous clubs, and a member of the faculty senate.
Prior to joining the Coast Guard Academy faculty, CAPT Fleischmann was assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Elm where she served two tours: as a Deck Watch Officer and Assistant Navigator and as the Operations Officer. In 2001, CAPT Fleischmann became a member of the Facilities Engineering Branch at the USCGA. During this tour, she served as both the Safety Officer and the Construction Officer where she was the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) as well as Civil Engineering Project Manager for the Academy’s $5.2 million dollar construction program including all aspects of the construction process: cost estimation, general scopes of work, management of change orders and contractor evaluations.

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Hudson V. Jackson P.E. United States Coast Guard Academy

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Dr. Jackson received his PhD from Rutgers University, specializing in Geotechnical Engineering. He is a licensed Professional Engineer with over 30 years of consulting, academic and research experience. He is currently a Professor of Civil Engineering at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT

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Kassim M. Tarhini P.E. United States Coast Guard Academy

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Professor of Civil Engineering

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Abstract

The Civil Engineering Profession expects graduates to develop sound communication and technical skills during their undergraduate education. A recent study reported 38% of new engineering graduates across all engineering disciplines indicated that having good communication skills is one of the most important factors impacting their advancement and success in industry. Similarly, it has been documented in the literature that good oral and written communication skills are required attributes for the success of engineering graduates in the workplace. Effective writing is one of the communication skills critical for the success of practicing civil engineers as they develop and write a wide variety of documents. The ability to write concisely and clearly in the workplace is critical for the graduate’s success in winning contracts and reducing liability. As information technology advances, it is essential that engineering educators encourage students to develop and improve their communication skills, especially technical writing in the context of the current and emerging information infrastructure. In the Civil Engineering Program at the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), specific performance indicators related to technical writing and information literacy have been developed and linked to several ABET Student Outcomes. Faculty members have developed technical writing instructions that are shared with students and mapped to various courses throughout the curriculum. The faculty have developed specific assignments and grading rubrics designed to progressively assess student writing skills and improve student development in technical writing.

Evaluation of the curriculum during the fall semester of 2021 resulted in the initiation of a comprehensive study to investigate how and when technical writing is taught in the civil engineering curriculum. Faculty members were interviewed to identify gaps in teaching and assessing technical writing skills in the curriculum. The information gathered was used to revise and develop new technical writing instructions that will be infused purposefully in various courses and labs within the curriculum. Preliminary assessment of the results indicate that students gain experience in a wide variety of technical writing assignments such as writing lab reports, journals, research papers, technical memos, and design project reports. Instructors are devoting time in their courses to discuss technical writing requirements or to teach aspects of technical writing. There are several themes that have emerged from this preliminary assessment:  Lack of attention to details. It is evident that faculty spend a lot of time preparing guidance for the students in their courses, but students do not appear to pay attention to all of the details in the guidance.  Presentation of results. Many students do not understand how to present data and communicate through effective visuals including tables, graphs, and design drawings. Students often resort to “the more words, the better” school of thought and submit all their data without trying to appropriately explain the results to the reader.  Proof reading before submission. Many students do not proofread their work before submission. They seem to heavily depend on the self-correction functions in the Microsoft Word processing software.

The authors will discuss the process of developing, implementing, and improving technical writing and information literacy progressively and consistently in the Civil Engineering curriculum at the USCGA. The goal is to help faculty coordinate their activities by mapping technical writing skills requirements into the curriculum and progressively infusing the appropriate technical writing throughout the required civil engineering courses. This coordinated effort will enable students to develop and hone the communication skills necessary for them to be successful in engineering practice, as well as encourage them to continue to grow through lifelong learning.

Heckman, K., & Fleischmann, C. M., & Jackson, H. V., & Tarhini, K. M. (2022, April), Mapping Technical Writing Across the Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at ASEE-NE 2022, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts. https://peer.asee.org/42189

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