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Teaching Strategies For Integrating Communication In The Chemical Engineering Lab

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1083.1 - 8.1083.12

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Paper Authors

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Julie Sharp Vanderbilt University

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

Session 2793



This paper discusses strategies for teaching communication in the senior chemical engineering laboratory course, ChE 229w, at Vanderbilt University Engineering School. Specifically, the author reports on teaching techniques, in-class and online assignments, and evaluation methods to enhance integrating communication and technical instruction in the lab.


In the last few years, papers at engineering education conferences and journal articles have explored rationale and methods for integrating communication and engineering instruction.1-4 The Chemical Engineering Department at Vanderbilt has been integrating this type of instruction for the past 22 years in both the junior and senior chemical engineering labs. Even before ABET required constituent feedback, the professors teaching the junior lab surveyed our recent graduates with an average of three years in the field to learn and incorporate their recommended improvements.5 The team-teaching of a chemical engineering professor and a technical communication professor in these courses has received praise from both ABET and alumni. The preparation for communication tasks offered by the department has also received high ratings in graduating senior surveys.6

The junior lab, ChE 228w, deals with transport phenomena and the basic principles of momentum, heat, and mass transfer. The senior lab, ChE 229w, focuses on separations studies and has pilot plant-size absorption, extraction, and distillation columns. In addition, several experiments include chemical reactor design and operation.7

Technical writing instruction has been integrated into the junior and senior chemical engineering labs since 1981. Since 1982, I have been the department’s technical communication professor, designing and teaching the technical communication portion of both labs in addition to teaching a technical communication course for all engineering majors. The designation “w” after the course number for each laboratory course, ChE 228w and ChE 229w, indicates that these courses include writing instruction. Beginning in 1987, however, students in these junior and senior labs have received training in both written and oral communication.8

In each course, students write numerous reports and give two videotaped oral presentations with visuals. The chemical engineering professor grades the technical content. The technical communication professor grades the organization, delivery, and visual aids in oral presentations and grades the report format, organization of ideas, grammar, and punctuation in written reports.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Sharp, J. (2003, June), Teaching Strategies For Integrating Communication In The Chemical Engineering Lab Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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