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Student Teamwork and Leadership in an Engineering Technical Writing Course

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Endeavors: Engineering and Liberal Arts

Tagged Divisions

Multidisciplinary Engineering and Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Alyson Grace Eggleston The Citadel

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Alyson G. Eggleston received her B.A. and M.A. in English with a focus on writing pedagogy and linguistics from Youngstown State University and her PhD in Linguistics from Purdue University. Her research and teaching interests are in technical and scientific writing pedagogy and the interaction of language and cognition. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Fine Arts, and Communications at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.

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Robert J. Rabb P.E. The Citadel

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Robert Rabb is an associate professor and the Mechanical Engineering Program Director at The Citadel. He previously taught mechanical engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Military Academy and his M.S.E. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His research and teaching interests are in mechatronics, regenerative power, and multidisciplinary engineering.

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Technical proficiency is a desirable skill for engineers, but often is one proficiency on a list of many required skills from employers. There is a growing emphasis for engineers to have other professional skills: organization, communication, ability to function on a team, and leadership. ABET requires students to function on a multidisciplinary team and has expanded the criterion to include teamwork starting in the 2019 cycle. Additionally, through course design, service learning, and mission, the [Institution] emphasizes its leader development for ROTC and non-ROTC students. There is a formal, four-functional area leadership model that assesses leader development in multiple ways. Integrated in the leadership model are Leader Characteristics that describe a leader’s actions. At the [Institution], professors assist in leader development by helping students mature their intellectual capacity to be leaders. As a focus of the [Institution’s] mission, leader development opportunities are reinforced in course design through critical thinking, communications, philosophical, theoretical, and analytical skills. In the leadership model, sophomores engage by learning the skills associated with direct leadership of individuals and small teams, and the management of specific administrative and logistical duties under close supervision—but with no intermediate leader between themselves and their subordinates. The school of Engineering at the [Institution] took the initiative to collaborate with humanities faculty in the creation of a sophomore-level, multidisciplinary communications class that would lay the foundation for cross-disciplinary communications course, with a focus on leader development.

Collaboration between an English Department and three Engineering Departments in 2015 resulted in a sophomore-level Technical Writing and Communications course (TWC) to prepare future graduates with better communication skills. Anchored in Project-based Learning (PBL), the course was designed and implemented with assignments allowing for the assessment of early leader development, as emphasized by the institution. The course required small teams to work on one hands-on, technical assignment, and several other group projects.

This paper discusses the implementation of a TWC (required of all engineering majors), developed to improve areas of persistent communicative challenge, which was subsequently expanded to assess teamwork and leader development for both the institution and ABET. The paper also presents its institution-specific implementation, and current student success markers. Qualitative and quantitative student feedback are also discussed, showing the positive impact the course has on engineering, as well as students’ positive perceptions of the course for preparation of professional skills. Finally, this paper makes recommendations for embedding leader development opportunities within instructional design, as well as the selection and allocation of classroom leadership, contributing peer-led experiential insight for the collective benefit of other students.

Eggleston, A. G., & Rabb, R. J. (2019, June), Student Teamwork and Leadership in an Engineering Technical Writing Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33302

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