American Society of Engineering Education - North Central Section Spring Conference 2018

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Technical Writing and Communication Skills: Water Resources Management and Environmental Engineering Experiences

While it is not apparent in the science and engineering point of view on an engineering program, technical writing and communication skills are vital part of an engineer’s career. These skills are the means to an engineering professional to communicate his or her ideas and feedback with others including the nontechnical staff, administrators and general public. While the writing courses and communication courses that the students take as the general education courses in their freshmen level are helpful first steps, they are not adequate enough for an engineering student in his technical report writing. Hence, it is essential for an engineering program to invest significant educational and practice components on technical writing and communication skills.

This paper presents the development and the enhancements in the Environmental Engineering (ENE) and Water Resources Management (WRM) courses with the technical writing and communication components. This assessment is restricted only to the courses that the author taught between 2008 Fall to 2017 Spring. Three WRM courses and six ENE courses with the writing components and communication skills were considered. These nine courses include one freshman, three junior and the rest senior year courses.

The courses introduced technical writing through at least one of the following tools: News, Paper and documentary reviews, field trip and seminar talk reports, laboratory reports, term papers and senior capstone reports. The verbal communication skills were enhanced through classroom presentations and discussions on the current water and environment-related affairs.

At any semester beginning, the formats for the required technical writing assignments were presented to the students. Some of the sample formats are presented in the paper. The students were guided in a timely fashion on how to follow the format. For the large assignments such as laboratory report, term papers, and senior capstone project reports, intermediate draft assessments were done by the instructor. The feedback on the draft reviews significantly helped the students improve their final reports.

In addition to this regular format-guidance-review-feedback-assessment approach by the course instructor, for two semesters of three classes, the students were also provided an English instructor’s assistance. However, this was not a successful as the students did not utilize the assistance. In the study period (from 2008 to 2017), the improvement was noted in each course, but the degree of success varies with the course.

Ramanitharan Kandiah
Central State University
United States


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