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Refashioning The First Year Introductory Course On Communications Skills And Engineering Practice

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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

2.344.1 - 2.344.2



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Paper Authors

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John K. Brown

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

Session 2661

Refashioning the First Year Introductory Course on Communications Skills and Engineering Practice John K. Brown Division of Technology, Culture and Communication School of Engineering and Applied Science University of Virginia

Like most engineering colleges, the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) at the University of Virginia confronts two novel curricular challenges. We must reconfigure our programs to conform to the ABET 2000 proposals while also seeking to boost institutional productivity in response the combined challenges of unalterable staffing and funding levels and anticipated enrollment growth. This paper outlines how the Division of Technology, Culture and Communication at SEAS plans to refashion its introductory writing and speaking class (TCC 101) to meet these challenges. Our goals are simply put:

--accomplish more teaching with fewer resources --improve the quality of our instruction in writing and public speaking --promote students’ awareness of modern social, economic, and political issues relating to engineering practice --increase students’ ethical awareness --decrease the attrition rate of first-year students (chiefly a problem of transfers into UVA’s liberal arts college)

At present, TCC 101 is a labor-intensive course, taught only in the first (Fall) semester, that divides 400 students into 12 sections (roughly 100 students annually are exempted from the class with high school AP credit). Each section thus has one professor and 33 students. The sections do intensive writing and speaking exercises that are hung on a curriculum whose intellectual content varies with the interests of each professor.

To respond to the present challenges and meet our ambitious goals, we are proposing a new structure for TCC 101. This plan calls for a single professor teach the class with the assistance of six teaching fellows (Education School graduate students in the Masters in Teaching degree program). All 500 students in the entering class will take the course -- divided equally between the Fall and Spring semesters. The professor will give one lecture each week to 250 students, largely on topics that place engineering practice in its professional, ethical, political, economic, and social contexts (more below). That lecture will also serve as an intellectual framework upon which to hang communications instruction. Then the teaching fellows will take each section (two sections per fellow, 21 students per section) for two meetings a week. The sections will do intensive work in writing and speaking -- on technical writing genres and on issues raised in the weekly general lecture.

The professional orientation of the weekly lecture will include issues like:

--the disciplinary character of engineering practice --the history of engineering --the relation of engineering to business, esp. in a corporate environment --ethical considerations in engineering --relations between government and engineering practice.

Course readings will include such authors as Arnold Pacey, The Maze of Ingenuity or David

Brown, J. K. (1997, June), Refashioning The First Year Introductory Course On Communications Skills And Engineering Practice Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6762

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