Incorporating Technical Communication Instruction into STEM Courses

We all recognize the importance of communication skills in today’s fast-paced, diverse business culture. Still, a common concern for faculty is how to incorporate writing and presentation opportunities into courses without pushing out other content.

In our department, we’ve worked on this issue for many years. Like every other ABET-accredited engineering program, we began with the basics: lab courses, where students write reports, and a capstone design course, where part of the final deliverable is a report and presentation. But we knew we could do more to prepare students for the complex communication tasks they would experience in research and industry.

Our Program

We designed a program using Writing in the Disciplines theory—a branch of the Writing Across the Curriculum movement. Rather than adding more assignments, we studied our existing curriculum to find where assignments could be modified to incorporate communication elements. For example:

  • replacing a mid-term exam with a presentation.
  • substituting quizzes with short writing assignments that asks students to reflect on course content.

When we decided to revamp our curriculum, we developed "practice" courses that involve even more hands-on experience in engineering and communication.

We aim to encourage:

  • critical thinking,
  • making connections between different courses, and
  • understanding the needs of different audiences.

To accomplish these goals, we used a plethora of resources—some of which are listed below.