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When Less Is More: Integrating Technical Writing Instruction

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Writing and Communication I

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1469.1 - 10.1469.18



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Paper Authors

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David Adams

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William Manion

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

When Less is Mor e: Integr ating Technical Wr iting Instr uction in a Lar ge, Fir st-Year Engineer ing Cour se

William P. Manion and David Adams Univer sity of Maine

Abstr act

Providing technical writing instruction within a large, first-year engineering course involves both logistical and imaginative challenges but can also yield substantive results. In the fall of 2003, the University of Maine initiated a new plan, called the Engineering Communication Project (ECP), to integrate technical writing instruction throughout the College of Engineering curricula. Civil Engineering Materials Laboratory (CIE 111) was the first course to incorporate the new plan. CIE 111 is a 1-credit laboratory component of a basic course in civil engineering materials, incorporating topics in material variability, plastics, metals, wood and concrete. Historically, students produced five full academic lab reports during the semester, with less than satisfactory results for the most part. Recent enrollment growth (to around 100 students) introduced further complication. The new ECP approach replaced the academic lab reports with five case-based memo assignments, which allowed for more specific instructional goals, more meaningful feedback to students and a reduced paper-reading load for engineering faculty. Specific goals for the memo assignments included learning memo format, and developing COPE writing skills (Clarity, Organization, Precision and Economy). The ECP is a cooperative effort between the Department of English and the College of Engineering and is supported by a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation. In summary, each engineering department will use alumni and faculty surveys to develop core competencies in technical communication. Departments will then integrate those competencies in appropriate courses throughout the curricula, with guidance from English department faculty. William Manion and David Adams describe the design and implementation of this assignment regimen and use examples for illustration. Manion and Adams also discuss some of the issues encountered and present initial assessments of the effort.

Intr oduction The University of Maine has begun a multi-year effort to redesign the way it teaches technical communication to students in the College of Engineering. This effort is called the Engineering Communication Project (ECP). At its core, this new design will mean replacing the existing requirement of a stand alone course in technical communication (3 credits) with a sequence of three communication-intensive engineering courses. This sequence will be followed by a year- long capstone design course in which technical communication plays a substantial role. The capstone course will also provide the opportunity for a final assessment of the endeavor through Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education.

Adams, D., & Manion, W. (2005, June), When Less Is More: Integrating Technical Writing Instruction Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14151

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