Asee peer logo

Technical Communication: Partner In Abet Accreditation And Assessment

Download Paper |


2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.604.1 - 5.604.4



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Marjorie T. Davis

Download Paper |

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

Session 2261

Technical Communication: Partner in ABET Accreditation and Assessment

Marjorie T. Davis Mercer University


EC 2000 has caused major revisions in engineering schools all over the country. Engineering educators have had to redefine the ways they are assessing all the facets of engineering education, including selecting specific deliverables to demonstrate student achievement in each of the educational outcomes. This shift to outcomes-based assessment rather than bean-counting has inflicted heartburn on hundreds of engineering professors around the country; the ones who are not experiencing the pain simply have not yet begun to deal with EC 2000 in a substantive way.

Lost in all this shuffle is Criterion 3-g, requiring that students demonstrate effectiveness in communication. Most engineering professors will want to address communication last, after they have dealt with the criteria relating to the “hard-core” engineering subjects. Many of them may be assuming that they can just leave all this assessment to their local English teachers. The problem with this assumption, however, is that English teachers are not typically ready to engage in the kinds of assessment that will be most appropriate for achieving EC 2000 goals. There will not be conceptual agreement on what is to be assessed, or why, or how. Astute EC2000 evaluators will be able to recognize the great gulf between what the criteria hope to achieve and what engineering educators may be leaving to chance.

Herein lies the problem. Ideally those who are responsible for instruction in communication will be ready, able, and willing to assess it for EC 2000; but many English teachers have no awareness of ABET’s criteria and little understanding of the kinds of communication expected in the professional engineer’s working environments. Therefore, engineering educators need to look for technical communication faculty to assist with communication assessment that matches the engineering contexts.


Since engineering first began to emerge as a profession, engineering educators have called on fellow academics in English for help in assuring the communication competency of their graduates. As Teresa Kynell points out, the earliest impetus for academic courses in technical communication came from the professional organization that was the forerunner to ASEE.1 Kynell traces the conference presentations over a hundred years starting in 1850, showing how engineering professors continually asked for more and different kinds of instruction than the traditional classroom-focused, essay-based writing. They wanted writing and speaking instruction that directly related to the kinds of real-world tasks engineers were expected to perform as the profession struggled for its status.

The situation is not so very different today. Employers and educators of engineers need and want young professionals to be able to perform in complex communication tasks. They must communicate with many different kinds of audiences, in many formats (both oral and written), for a variety of purposes. Most of these tasks are not closely related at all to what is traditionally taught in Freshman English or speech classes. The real-world context is still missing, and the audience remains primarily the teacher. It is not at

Davis, M. T. (2000, June), Technical Communication: Partner In Abet Accreditation And Assessment Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8764

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2000 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015