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Preparing First-Year Engineering Students for a Career where Communication Skills Matter

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Professional Skill Development

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Leila Keyvani Northeastern University

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Dr. Keyvani is an assistant teaching professor in the First year engineering program.

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Kathryn Schulte Grahame Northeastern University

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Dr. Kathryn Schulte Grahame is an Associate Teaching Professor at Northeastern University and a member of the first-year engineering team. The focus of this team is on providing a consistent, comprehensive, and constructive educational experience that endorses the student-centered, professional and practice-oriented mission of Northeastern University.
She teaches the Cornerstone of Engineering courses to first-year students as well as courses within the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. She is a recent recipient of the Outstanding Teacher of First-Year Students Award and is interested in research that compliments and informs her teaching.

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This complete evidence-based practice paper describes the techniques used in the project based first-year Cornerstone of Engineering courses at XXXX to address the need for building communication skills for our first-year engineering students. Although this skill can be taught and assessed, the results of past surveys show that engineering students are inadequately equipped to meet this need.

This need is addressed by teaching and assessing the three pillars of engineering communication: written, oral and graphical through a series of lectures, activities and group assignments. For instance, a series of biweekly group assignments, designed to assess and improve the three pillars of engineering communication are woven into the project-based curriculum, culminating with a final project exhibition and written reflection. These assignments, not only assess the presentation, graphical communication and writing skills of the teams but also their individual leadership skills. In addition, recommended materials for preparation, implementation guidelines, and best practices for engineering communications are discussed.

Based on quantitative survey data, students overwhelmingly reported that feel they have improved their proficiency in the three pillars of communication through the course. Qualitative data showed that students think that mastery of the different pillars will make them better team players and give them the flexibility to effectively communicate with a variety of audiences. The majority of students reported oral communication as their skill that requiring the most work and many reported fear associated with public speaking. Students recognized that all their communication skills were a work in progress mirroring the initial course message that engineers need to be lifelong learners.

Keyvani, L., & Schulte Grahame, K. (2019, June), Preparing First-Year Engineering Students for a Career where Communication Skills Matter Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31914

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