St. Louis, Missouri
June 18, 2000
June 18, 2000
June 21, 2000
5.604.1 - 5.604.4
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
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