June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.1496.1 - 26.1496.11
Good communication skills are vital for any career. Engineers are often stigmatized as beingpoor communicators, and while this is merely a stereotype, many engineers and STEM studentsdo express disinterest in writing and other forms of communication. While communication isincorporated in many undergraduate chemical engineering courses through laboratory reports,presentations, and informal short answer questions, these items are generally evaluated for theirtechnical accuracy, not on aspects of their delivery and presentation. In the chemical engineeringdepartment of a large Midwestern university, students are required to take two courses in writingand communication. The first is a general English course, the second is an elective. Whiletechnical communication is an option for this elective, so are courses in fairy-tale literature or thewritings of various ethnicities. Thus, students are not explicitly required to take a course intechnical communication, but rather expected to gain these skills needed for their professionalcareers through other coursework and external experiences. Other departments at the sameinstitution offer discipline-specific courses in technical communication, and informalobservations of the communication skills of senior-level students have suggested that ourdepartment may benefit from such a course. In Spring 2014, we piloted an undergraduate course,Technical and Professional Communication for Chemical Engineers, and with its success will beoffering the course again in Spring 2015. Course focus is on all aspects of communication,verbal (written and oral), non-verbal (body language and development of visuals), andprofessional skills (e.g., resume development, e-mail writing). The format of the course isheavily active and inquiry-based learning, with short lectures guiding the 80 minute sessions. Atypical session consists generally of a warm-up activity that gauges the student perceptions andknowledge of the topic of interest, then a brief lecture and discussion on the topic, followed by asecond activity that allows the students to practice the concepts discussed in the lecture portion.This model was adopted based on the expectation that students will enter the course with varyingschemata regarding communication, each derived from varied individual experiences. The warm-up activity not only gets the students engaged in the topic from the start of class, but also servesas a guide for the lecture and discussion. Student responses to the course indicate that this is ahigh-value offering applicable for any chemical engineering student regardless of intended careerpath, and we look to establish this as a permanent course in the department. If and when thecourse enrollment becomes large enough, we are interested in comparing communication skillsof students who have taken the course versus those who have not, through the addition of acommunication specific evaluation of artifacts students are already required to develop in otherdepartment courses (the aforementioned items where evaluation is generally focused on technicalaccuracy).
Miskioglu, E. (2015, June), Technical and Professional Communication for Chemical Engineers Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24833
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