Mixing Numbers and Letters: Collaboration Between Engineering and English to Improve Graduate Student Work
This paper will describe the issues and process of developing an introductory course in graduate writing and communication skills in conjunction with the industry of professional consulting engineering. The course was developed through a collaboration of English and engineering faculty and the collaboration is maintained in the teaching of the course. Innovative techniques incorporated into the course development include a four-pronged approach: 1) use of best practices for Writing in the Disciplines; 2) development of and focus on a multi-faceted collaborative model (Engineering and English, university and industry, students and faculty, industry and students); 3) team-teaching by engineering and English faculty members for the initial graduate research course; and 4) emphasis on the quality of the thesis project content in terms of the research itself, analysis and synthesis of that research, and effective communication of the results. Accountability and assessment of students’ work includes development of the thesis project statement and presentation of their work to a body of their peers; presentations and evaluations by departmental faculty; and round table talks with industry. This system of accountability and assessment have shown marked improvement in the communication skill set often minimized in both undergraduate and graduate engineering education.