Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts
April 22, 2022
April 22, 2022
April 23, 2022
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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