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The Integration of Professional Communication Skills into Engineering Education Dorthy Missingham
University of Adelaide
Originally published in the Proceedings of the EDU-COM 2006 International Conference. Engagement and Empowerment: New Opportunities for Growth in Higher Education, Edith Cowan University, Perth Western Australia, 22-24 November 2006. This Conference Proceeding is posted at Research Online. http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ceducom/91
Missingham, D. The Universtiy of Adelaide, Australia. The Integration of Professional Communication Skills into Engineering Education
Dr Dorthy Missingham School of Mechanical Engineering The University of Adelaide. Australia firstname.lastname@example.org
ABSTRACT Conventional Engineering curriculum is strongly focused on the development in students of technical knowledge and skills. However, in recent years, employers have increasingly acknowledged that this traditional preparation of Engineering students‘ is inadequate, as graduates lack the wide range of written and spoken communication skills required to engage with members of other professional groups and with the broader community. Recognition of the important role that communicative competence plays in professional success within the engineering industry has, as a result, led to a number of tertiary institutions developing curricula to address these needs. This paper presents a successful integrative Engineering Communication curriculum, developed for both local and international Engineering students in an Australian university, which aims to develop both communicative ability and community engagement. The courses that form the Engineering Communication Program provide for critical awareness-raising of community issues such as ethics, sustainability and gender, English for academic and professional Engineering purposes for both English as an Additional Language (EAL) and English background students and advanced research communication for postgraduate students. All courses are strongly informed by scaffolded learning techniques, systemic functional linguistics and genre theory, and most are run collaboratively by Engineering, Education and Applied Linguistics lecturers. The aims of the Program are to raise awareness in Engineering students about, and to equip them with skills for, their future roles and responsibilities, and to provide the community with engineers whose strong technical knowledge is balanced by an appreciation of the broader social contexts with which they will engage in their professional lives. INTRODUCTION The need for engineering students to acquire professional skills, in addition to technical skills, in order to enhance both community engagement and career success has been increasingly articulated by educators and industry professionals alike. Professional skills mentioned variously include teamwork, conflict resolution, and an awareness of social justice, sustainability and ethics. However, as highlighted by Adams and Missingham (2006) the need for improved communicative competence in engineering graduates has been the professional skills area most widely discussed in research and the engineering profession. Increasingly, engineers work in knowledge-intensive fields that require both high level communication and problem-solving skills (Alvesson 2004). In the Australian setting this need is recognised in the National Generic Competence Standards formulated by Engineers Australia, which extensively refers to communicative abilities throughout its descriptors of competencies required by engineers (IE Aust 1999). However, research on employer satisfaction with engineering graduates‘ communication skills indicates they are below desired requirements, both in Australia (DEETYA 2000) and abroad (Lee 2003). This paper discusses a successful integrative Engineering...