(457f) Framework for Conducting a Technical Communication Crosswalk across a Chemical Engineering Curriculum

Authors: 
Pfluger, A., U.S. Military Academy
Armstrong, M., United States Military Academy
Biaglow, A., United States Military Academy
James, C., United States Military Academy
Nagelli, E., United States Military Academy
Miller, A., United States Military Academy
ABET student outcome 4 states that undergraduate students must have “an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences” upon graduation. To meet this student outcome, and enhance the communication skills of students, an undergraduate engineering program can intentionally place technical communication instruction across its curriculum. However, not all engineering programs intentionally scaffold experiences to develop technical communication skills through the curriculum. To assess the number, placement, and quality of communication-related graded events within our chemical engineering curriculum, we developed a technical communications crosswalk framework. The framework included mapping of written communication events (research papers, contemporary issue papers, capstone design reports, resume writing exercises, and short technical communications), oral presentations, and laboratory reports from freshman through senior year in a total of 16 required courses for our chemical engineering majors. Linkages for each type of technical communication experience to experiences in course pre-requisites were also included to determine opportunities for connecting events across courses. A comprehensive, multiple-part survey was used to collect characteristics of each technical communication event, to include, the topic, whether the event was completed by individual students or in a team, the percentage of the total course grade the event was worth, and where the graded event was placed within the course, amongst others. Instructor assessment of each event was also collected for courses taught by chemical engineering faculty (e.g., mass and energy balances, chemical reaction engineering, etc.). The technical communications crosswalk framework provided insight into the way our program addresses ABET student outcome 4 and identified some areas for possible improvement. For example, we are considering how to improve technical communications early in the student experience, which could include developing a 1.0 credit technical communications seminar taken in the sophomore year. While the results will vary, the crosswalk framework introduced in this study can be applied to engineering programs at many universities.
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