Framework for analyzing placement of and identifying opportunities for improving technical communication in a chemical engineering curriculum

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Education for Chemical Engineers
Technical communication is an extremely important soft skill for young engineers entering the workplace. Undergraduate engineering programs normally address technical communications, but many do not provide intentionally placed discipline-specific technical communication experiences designed to progressively increase technical communication skills. This study presents an analysis of the technical skill requirement by international accrediting organizations for communication literacy, as well as an analysis of some technical communication education approaches within chemical engineering curricula. This study also presents methods for conducting a crosswalk of graded events with a technical communication component across a curriculum, which can help a program understand the placement of technical communication graded events and identify opportunities for reallocation or scaffolding. This study employs a survey-based approach for gathering information about all technical communication graded events within a chemical engineering curriculum and a method for assessing placement and scaffolding opportunities using a longitudinal crosswalk of all applicable courses from freshman to senior year. Results from this study suggest that the U.S. Military Academy (West Point)'s chemical engineering program has 74 technical communication graded events, which were highly concentrated in the junior year. Most events were lab reports (55 %) assessed for content only or team events (78 %). Opportunities for scaffolding across courses were identified and the content for a 1.0-credit seminar course are presented. The methods presented in this study can be used by other engineering programs to identify gaps in technical communication education and methods for improvement within their curriculum.
Technical communication, Oral communication, Chemical engineering curriculum, Scaffolding
Pfluger et al., "Framework for Analyzing Placement of and Identifying Opportunities for Improving Technical Communication in a Chemical Engineering Curriculum."