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Improving the Ability of Engineering Students to Communicate Their Technical Discoveries to Non-Technical Audiences. Deborah M. Sinnreich-Levi Susan Staffin Metz David Silverstein. Everyone agrees…. Communication skills are crucial for engineering students. NAE ABET AAAS NSF Employers

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slide1

Improving the Ability of Engineering Students to Communicate Their Technical Discoveries to Non-Technical Audiences

Deborah M. Sinnreich-Levi

Susan Staffin Metz

David Silverstein

everyone agrees
Everyone agrees…
  • Communication skills are crucial for engineering students.
    • NAE
    • ABET
    • AAAS
    • NSF
    • Employers
    • The public
    • Faculty advisors
      • And sometimes students.

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

stevens curriculum
Stevens’ curriculum
  • Writing intensive classes in Humanities
    • Six 2-3 page papers
    • 1 or more oral reports
  • Engineering design spine
    • Runs through entire curriculum
    • Now includes communications workshops in semesters 6, 7, 8

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

eif grant period workshops fall 2009 spring 2010
EIF grant period:Workshops Fall 2009-Spring 2010
  • Spring 2009:
    • biomedical (4)
    • electrical (2)
    • computer engineering (2).
  • Fall 2009:
    • biomedical (2)
    • electrical (1)
    • computer (2)
    • mechanical (1)
    • civil (1)
    • chemical engineering (1).

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

workshops consider
Workshops consider

Audience

Rhetorical appeal

Technical writing concerns

Formal report structures

Transmitting data using visual aids

Other presentation considerations

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

audience
Audience
  • Why are you giving this presentation?
  • What is your goal?
  • Who is your audience?
    • How technically informed are the audience members?
    • Are you speaking to colleagues, superiors or people from an entirely different area?
    • How large is your audience?

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

aristotelian rhetorical appeals
Aristotelian Rhetorical Appeals

ETHOS

stems from the moral character of the speaker

rhetorical triangle

LOGOS

PATHOS

based in emotional appeal

derived from logical argument

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

students pre and post intervention self evaluation showed they were better able to
Students’ pre- and post-intervention self evaluation showed they were better able to:
  • Write a document that effectively explains a complex technical topic.
    • 30% rose to 42%.
  • Describe a technical design so that a non-technical person can describe it to someone else.
    • 22% rose to 38 %.
  • Develop a speech or paper effectively for a specific audience.
    • 7% rose to 33%.

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

room for improvement
Room for improvement
  • Students who began with especially poor self-confidence actually reported less confidence after the intervention.
    • “Some or no ability”
      • To develop a speech or paper effectively for a specific audience (23%28%),
      • Keep an audience engaged in a speech that they give (30%  35%).

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

what abilities students want from the workshops
What abilities students want from the workshops

Make engineering interesting 16%

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

changes in the workshop series
Changes in the workshop series
  • Original workshops:
    • Presentation Techniques
    • Technical Writing Considerations
  • Revised workshop list:
    • Introduction to Technical Writing Considerations
    • Advanced Technical Writing Strategies
    • Introduction to Presentation Skills
    • Advanced Presentation Skills and MS PowerPoint Features

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

additional workshops developed spring 2010
Additional workshops developed Spring 2010
  • The Writing Process: How to Organize Your Thoughts
  • Writing Abstracts, Introductions, and Conclusions
  • Business English for ESL Students
  • Citing and Summarizing Outside Sources for ESL Students

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

specific additions to the content of communication workshops
Specific additions to the content of Communication Workshops
  • How To Tell A Story With Your Information
    • How will the audience apply these ideas, use this item, or buy this service?
  • How To Alter Your Message for Various Audiences
    • How must the story be different for different audiences?

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

slide19

Slide 2

Slide 3

Slide 1

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

other points added to presentation workshops
Other points added to presentation workshops…
  • How various companies rephrase or reposition similar information for less and more technically minded cohorts:
    • Using less or more technical detail
    • Using different graphics
    • Choosing different levels
    • Greater use of familiar images and keywords for lay-audiences
    • Higher level of diction as well as appropriate use of jargon, acronyms, footnotes, embedded links, and references for technical audiences.

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

what did students learn
What did students learn?

Preparing a PowerPoint Slide Show:

  • Use professional templates.
  • Proofread documents.
  • Have less clutter on slides.
  • Be direct and clear when writing and creating slides.
  • Keep audience in mind.

Giving an Oral Presentation:

  • Practice the presentation with some friends prior to the presentation.
  • Test the PowerPoint on a projector prior to the presentation.
  • Interact with the audience.
  • Slow down when speaking.
  • Explain technical terms.
  • Focus on different ways to communicate with different audiences.
  • Avoid note cards.
    • Know slides well enough to speak from them.

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

what do students suggest
What do students suggest?
  • Give the workshop to freshmen engineering students.
  • Focus on how to practice giving a presentation.
  • Have groups give presentations and get critiques from different audiences.
  • Provide more practical advice or tactics on how to get yourself out trouble during a presentation (recollect yourself).
  • Make the workshop a full course on professional communications for engineers.

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

teams judged on
Teams judged on:
  • Organization and development
  • Delivery
  • Use of slides (5 max)
  • Content
  • Judges:
  • Writing Director
  • Dean of Student Life
  • Director of Coop Program

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010

slide24

Not the end…

Sinnreich-Levi ASEE 2010