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Why Advocate Communication Skills In Experiential Learning?

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Workplace Concerns, Realities, and Intangibles

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1372.1 - 14.1372.5



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Paper Authors

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Craig Gunn Michigan State University

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

Why Advocate Communication Skills in Experiential Learning Coupled with Engineering?


Experiential learning has become one of the most important foci of engineers enrolled in engineering programs today. Students are regularly combining their courses with work in the real world. With this real world experience, students have discovered that they can no longer simply learn technical expertise without the added knowledge of global issues, cultural constraints, and the need for communication skill. It has, therefore, become vitally important for programs in engineering to provide the necessary tools for their students to excel in the world outside the university during their experiential learning experiences. This focus along with the increased emphasis on communication excellence in the classroom has provided another vital link between the academic and industrial worlds. When students begin their experiential learning assignments, there are many things that are flowing through their minds. They consider the money that they will be earning as part of the work force. They are also entering, in most cases, an environment that is unfamiliar to them. They have not previously been in positions that have required them to become the supervisors of, for example, older union workers. They have not experienced jobs that have placed ultimate responsibility upon their decision making skills. Additionally, they must communicate too many different audiences both inside and outside the working environment. Many of these elements can to be addressed during their time in the classroom, before they go into the working world and after they have returned from these experiences. The emphasis on communication skill and the methods used to focus awareness on these necessities are addressed in this paper.

As freshmen enter the college ranks, many have the impression that the elements that they learned in English courses K-12 have passed to some nether world never to be accessed again. Conducting short surveys of these incoming freshmen finds some startling revelations. Comments range from, “I will never have to write again,” to “I’m going to be an engineer and that means NO English!” We realize that with a little thought from these students on the reality of life in the world of engineering will ultimately change this perspective. But it is an incoming group that sees engineering in a different light from the faculty and academic staff. It is important, therefore, to make every effort to juxtaposition the teaching of the necessary technical material with those skills that will make an engineer both suited for the real world technically and fully capable of communicating his or her engineering expertise to a waiting public.

Obviously it is important to get students involved with engineering as early as possible in their college careers. This involvement will make them a part of not only the institution but the profession of engineering. Hopefully faculty and staff will provide them with adequate information to understand the reasons for taking the calculus and physics and the chemistry and deformable solids. With that there begins the need to provide these same students with an element of their learning that may not seem to exist but is simply atrophied, the vital realization that in order to pursue the profession of engineering they must communicate. This reality definitely does come as a shock to some, and those are quick to respond with the

Gunn, C. (2009, June), Why Advocate Communication Skills In Experiential Learning? Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5120

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