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Teaching Technical Communications To Et Students: A Case Study Approach

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.493.1 - 4.493.11

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Paper Authors

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Sohail Anwar

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Paula Ford

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

Session 2548

Teaching Technical Communications to Engineering Technology Students: A Case Study Approach Paula Ford, Sohail Anwar The Pennsylvania State University—Altoona College


One alternative to a long term-paper assignment in a technical writing course is the short memo. Engineering technology students enrolled in Ms. Ford’s sections of Technical Writing, English 202C, at Penn State University—Altoona College are required to write a number of memos and short reports in response to case studies. These case studies are designed to approximate the types of writing students will be doing in their careers. When English instructors work together with engineering faculty, they can write more realistic cases and can build upon skills the students are learning in their engineering technology classes. Similarly, engineering faculty can consult with the English instructor to incorporate memo and report writing skills into the students’ engineering projects. This paper reports on efforts by the English and engineering faculty members to complement each other’s assignments so that students will acquire skills in both engineering and communication. Sample cases are presented.


The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has developed a new set of accrediting criteria for engineering programs in the United States requiring accreditation-seeking programs to demonstrate that their graduates have an ability to communicate effectively. The integration of written, oral, and visual communications into engineering/engineering technology courses is important because 1) the ability to communicate effectively is crucial to the success of engineering/engineering technology graduates in their careers and 2) language is a powerful tool for learning. An effective instructional model for teaching communications to engineering/engineering technology students may include 1) Writing and speaking assignments designed to promote active learning and collaborative problem solving. 2) Communications in workplace settings. Examples of such forms of communications are technical memos, engineering case studies, and technical feasibility reports.

In order to meet the need for providing instruction in technical communications, all baccalaureate degree engineering and engineering technology students at the Pennsylvania State University are required to take English 202C (Technical Writing) in addition to English 15 (Rhetoric and Composition). The course objectives for English 202C as outlined by the Penn State University English Department are listed as follows:

ENGL 202C, Technical Writing, serves students who are studying and preparing for careers in the sciences and applied sciences (particularly engineering). This advanced course in writing familiarizes students with the discourse practices prized in their disciplinary and institutional communities—and helps them to manage those practices

Anwar, S., & Ford, P. (1999, June), Teaching Technical Communications To Et Students: A Case Study Approach Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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