The Technical Communication Program and the Engineering Library collaborate to provide support for communication and library research in SEAS classes. This effort produces measurable results which can be used as part of the departmental portfolio for ABET review. TCP Director Mary Westervelt and Engineering Head Librarian Doug McGee work with classes in each department.
TCP Director Mary Westervelt is available to give in-class presentations on
- characteristics of good writing as they apply to specific class assignments
- oral presentation guidelines
- poster guidelines
and to provide evaluation rubrics for use with specific assignments.
Technical Communication Fellows
Technical Communication Fellows are students who have completed EAS 500, Technical Communication in Engineering Practice, and who are trained to mentor peers on communication skills. They are available to coach and provide written feedback to students on drafts of assignments. Fellows can also give students feedback on their oral presentations (both use of PowerPoint, and general presentation style).
Examples of classes which have integrated TCP resources
BE 210 Typically, the TCP Director provides writing guidelines and gives an in-class presentation on successful writing of academic lab reports. Students meet with Fellows who have taken BE 210 to discuss ways to revise one lab report during the semester. Individuals and teams make use of TCP Fellows' office hours to get help in writing and revising their final lab proposal.
BE 303 One position-paper assignment is targeted near the beginning of each semester. Through in-class presentations and workshops, students learn to critically evaluate information sources and to outline and write a position paper using these sources. The final product is a memo written to a corporate vice president. Students meet with Fellows to review an outline or rough draft of the memo. Fellows aid in evaluating the final memos.
CIS 240 Students write a memo to present an informed opinion. In 2009, the topic was the adoption of C or the continuation of Java as the target programming language in introductory programming classes. Students met with Fellows to review a draft and revised the draft before submitting it for grading.
EAS 170, EAS 204 In these classes, students received instruction in conducting library research and in writing reports. Students in both classes meet with TCP Fellows for guidance writing the reports.
MEAM 347/348 Through in-class presentations and workshops, students learn to critically evaluate information sources and to outline and write a position paper using these sources. Students meet with Fellows to review a rough draft of the paper. Fellows aid in evaluating the final papers.
Lab courses (BE 210, CBE 410, ESE 205, MSE 250, MEAM 347/348). In some cases, students are assigned to meet with Fellows to review a draft of a lab report. In others, TCP personnel help prepare report-writing guidelines and rubrics, after which they meet with TAs to explain how to use them. In MEAM 348, with TCP guidance and feedback, students write memo-style progress reports for lab projects.
Senior Design courses (MEAM 445, CIS 400, ESE 450). In ESE 450, TCP provides guidelines for oral presentations, including detailed rubrics and examples. TCP Director Mary Westervelt presents the guidelines in class; Fellows attend the first round of presentations and give oral and written feedback to presenters. In MEAM 445, TCP provides extensive feedback on the writing quality of the Proposals and the Progress Reports. TCP has facilitated peer-editing workshops as students prepared their final reports. In CIS 400, TCP has provided written rubrics and guidelines and is on call for students needing help with writing. In MSE 495, TCP Director Mary Westervelt visited class early in the fall semester 2009 to review pointers for collaborative report writing.
Students from many departments have taken the initiative to meet with TCP Fellows to review drafts of their Senior Design reports.
How you can help your students be better communicators
- Emphasize that clear communication in writing and speaking is expected on all assignments by assigning point values to clarity of expression, use of appropriate format and the like.
- Provide clear examples of what constitutes a well-written report, a well-crafted PowerPoint presentation, a successful poster and the like, making sure the example is annotated so students know what makes it good. Contact the TCP Director for help creating or presenting these examples.
- Use checklists (rubrics) with each assignment to give concrete and specific feedback.
- Encourage students to make use of TCP Fellows to review a draft of writing assignments before these are submitted to you. If an assignment is not well written, insist that the student consult with a Fellow and submit a revision.
- Make sure to set a high standard for students to emulate, even in e-mail messages, course materials, and statements of assignments.
For more information, contact:
Engineering Library Resources
Doug McGee, Engineering Library Head, will provide customized support for your class. Support may take the form of
- in-class or separately scheduled presentations
- information retrieval labs
- online (Blackboard/course site) and print resource guides
- consultations on assignments
- TA training/ grading rubrics
For more information, contact