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Communicating Like Engineers: Using WAC to Improve Technical Students

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Context: RHIT and Engineering Communication Across the Curriculum ... Ed Wheeler, Electrical and Computer Engineering ... professional engineering practice ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Communicating Like Engineers: Using WAC to Improve Technical Students


1
Communicating Like Engineers Using WAC to
Improve Technical Students Writing and Thinking
  • Faculty of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology,
    Terre Haute, Indiana

2
Communicating Like Engineers
  • Context RHIT and Engineering Communication
    Across the Curriculum
  • Short presentations assignment development,
    procedure, student reactions, assessment, plans
    for revision
  • Discussion and questions

3
Presenters
  • Ed Wheeler, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Wayne Padgett, Electrical and Computer
    Engineering
  • Anneliese Watt, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Richard Layton, Mechanical Engineering
  • Patsy Brackin, Mechanical Engineering
  • Julia Williams, Humanities and Social Sciences

4
Context for Engineering Communication Across the
Curriculum
  • Julia Williams, HSS

5
What is WAC?
  • Bi-annual conference
  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Focuses on Writing Across the Curriculum efforts
  • National representation
  • Engineers, scientists, mathematicians
    participating

6
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Terre Haute, Indiana
  • 1500 undergraduate students
  • B.S. degrees in engineering, science, and
    mathematics
  • Median SAT scores 1350 (700M,650V)
  • 80 engineering students

7
Engineering Communication
  • Needs
  • Engineers who think, design, and communicate
  • Accreditation demands student learning
  • Industrial demands professional engineering
    practice
  • Writing as learning tool enhanced technical
    proficiency and communication ability

8
Engineering Communication
  • Constraints
  • Crowded engineering curriculum
  • Writing not integrated with technical content
  • Student attitudes more work
  • Faculty attitudes more work
  • Site for exchange and collaboration
  • Technical faculty
  • Technical communication faculty

9
EE 206 Elements of Electrical
Engineering Writing on a Technical Topic, Guided
Peer Review
  • Ed Wheeler, ECE

10
  • Not communicating effectively, particularly in
    writing, remains the greatest shortcoming of most
    engineers today. Norman Augustine, Former Chair
    and CEO of Martin Marietta Corporation
  • "By the time I leave office, I want engineering
    to do a better job of supplying information on
    which public policy can be based. William
    Wolf, National Academy of Engineering

11
Paper Assignment for EE 206
  • Assignment
  • Initial topic choice
  • Peer-revision
  • Final draft
  • Two options for students
  • Technical or peer audience
  • General audience

12
Technical or Peer Audience
  • Paper assignment
  • Write a paper on one or two specific uses of
    transducers in measurement control in your
    discipline.
  • Objectives
  • Demonstrate independent learning of new technical
    material
  • Use of effective graphics where appropriate

13
General Audience
  • Paper assignment
  • Write a paper on some topic partly or wholly
    within your discipline. Consider your audience
    to be comprised of generally well informed
    members of the general public.
  • Objectives
  • Accommodate varied audience
  • Learn that doing this well is difficult
  • Appreciate that the goal is not to dumb down

14
Observations and Outcomes
  • Successful assignment
  • Many excellent papers
  • Interesting and fun to read
  • Students engaged in process
  • Peer-evaluation forms
  • Burden not too heavy

15
EC 380 Discrete Time and Continuous
Systems Literature Search and Oral Report
  • Wayne Padgett, ECE

16
Writing in Engineering Courses
- author may wish to remain anonymous
17
EC380 Course Requirements
  • EC 380 Discrete Time and Continuous Systems
    4R-0L-4C W, S Pre EC 300
  • System properties applied to discrete-time and
    continuous systems. The z-transform, FIR and IIR
    filters. Convolution and the Fourier transform in
    continuous and discrete-time systems. Literature
    search and oral report.

18
Traditional Approach
  • Student chooses technical topic
  • Student researches topic (literature search)
  • Student documents research (formal report)
  • Student presents research (oral presentation)
  • Professor grades report and presentation

19
Traditional Disadvantages
  • Research is unstructured, sometimes ineffective
  • Large number of topics
  • Report grading is time-intensive
  • Presentations use large amount of class time
  • Other course assignments may be redundant
  • Students sometimes re-use topics, papers

20
Alternative Approach
  • Student reads pre-selected articles (one topic),
    reads 1 self-selected paper (new topic)
  • Student analyzes papers for technical level and
    intended audience
  • Students research a topic in pairs and give oral
    presentation
  • Professor grades analysis and report

21
Alternative Advantages
  • Student receives specific guidance on research
    technique
  • Writing assignment is shorter, and research-skill
    oriented
  • Research requirement is less intense, fewer
    presentations

22
Alternative Disadvantages
  • Less depth in research
  • Students still want to re-use topics
  • Some students still find the assignment redundant
  • Professor schedules assignment timing instead of
    student (more structured)

23
RH 330 Technical Communication Audience Analysis
and Accommodation
  • Anneliese Watt, HSS

24
Audience Analysis in Tech Comm What We
Want--Writing
  • Students should be able to
  • Define their audience
  • Describe the relevant characteristics of that
    audience
  • Craft a document that adequately accommodates
    that audience.
  • Audience Analysis Worksheet (handout)

25
Audience Analysis in Tech Comm What We
Want--Reading
  • Students should
  • Consider the forum within which the document is
    distributed, read, and/or published
  • Understand who constitutes the target primary and
    secondary readers.
  • They should then ask how the above may have
    affected the presentation and reception of the
    material.

26
Common Student Complaint
  • I dont understand the article Im reading.
  • Why?--you may not be the audience.
  • In doing research for a technical report,
    students need to be reminded to consider the
    audience for the article they are reading, and
    how that affects the presentation of the
    material.
  • They also need to be encouraged to pursue
    material from a variety of forums.

27
Example DVD Articles
  • Handout DVD articles
  • Epinions.com
  • Scientific American Ask the Experts (2
    articles)
  • IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics.
  • Common topic
  • Differences in audience and purpose
  • Drastically different in strategies of language,
    organization, tone, etc.

28
Regarding DVD Articles, Students Are Asked
  • What readers are targeted by this publication?
  • What can the document tell us about the audience
    it is intended for?
  • What elements of the document reflect reader
    accommodation?

29
Tech Com Assignment Summary
  • Audience analysis worksheet
  • Students analyze their reading
  • Students prepare for their own writing.
  • DVD articles as a 1-2 day assignment
  • Students become more effective researchers and
    readers of technical info
  • Students more successfully accommodate their own
    audiences.

30
ME 406 Control Systems Laboratory Report
  • Richard Layton, ME

31
Writing? In a technical course?
  • Basic needs
  • Critical thought about class-related work
  • Technical coherence in reporting
  • To meet these needs
  • Open-ended problems
  • Writing, writing, writing, writi

32
Course attributes
  • ME406 Control Systems, Fall 00
  • 61 seniors in 17 teams in 2 sections
  • Lecture lab design
  • Jigsaw structure for lab instruction
  • Writing assignments by teams
  • 3 or 4 students per team
  • Heterogeneous, instructor-assigned
  • Peer-ratings to address hitchhiking

33
Team writing assignments
  • Assignment
  • Lab report
  • Revise outline, in-class
  • Oral presentation of outline
  • Revised report
  • Feedback
  • Graded w/ marginal notes
  • Focused mini-lectures on technical
    errors/omissions
  • Active listening and student critique
  • Graded w/ general comments

34
Writing goals
  • Report results of lab or design problem
  • Many paths to a satisfactory outcome
  • Discussion, implication, inferences
  • More than just reporting
  • Why these deliverables?
  • Vertical synthesis
  • Coherence, coherence, coherence

35
Issues
  • Team writing and editing
  • Team commitment
  • Coherence
  • Clarity of expectations
  • Open-ended shouldnt mean obscure
  • Timeline given in advance
  • Motivate the writing

36
Mechanical Engineering 450/460/470 Machine
Design Professional Writing Practice
  • Patsy Brackin, ME

37
What is Senior Design?
  • Mechanical Engineering 450/460/470
  • Machine Design
  • Traditional machine design concepts fatigue,
    buckling, use of machine components, etc.
  • Design project with an industrial sponsor
    Sagian, Union Hospital, Neoteric, Caterpillar

38
Writing Components of ME 460
  • Team meetings Agenda and Minutes
  • Weekly progress report memos to instructor
  • Logbook
  • Final design report

39
Areas for Improvement
  • Logbooks
  • Poor documentation.
  • Students have difficulty reflecting on their
    learning.
  • Design Reports
  • Inappropriate level of abstraction either too
    general or too detailed
  • Students ignore guidelines omit required
    sections, leave out supporting materials, etc.
  • Students dont believe they should be explicit
    and direct about their project reluctant to
    answer the question, what is the problem?

40
Communicating Like Engineers Using WAC to
Improve Technical Students Writing and Thinking
  • Faculty of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology,
    Terre Haute, Indiana

41
Communicating Like Engineers
  • Context RHIT and Engineering Communication
    Across the Curriculum
  • Short presentations assignment development,
    procedure, student reactions, assessment, plans
    for revision
  • Discussion and questions

42
Website for Handouts
http//www.rose-hulman.edu/williaj/wac2001
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