Engineering Nebraska, Summer07
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Faculty Win ITLE Grant to Study How Well Engineering Students Communicate

Dennis Schulte, Mary Garbacz, David Admiraal, and Bruce Dvorak

Editor’s Note: UNL launched the Initiative for Teaching and Learning Excellence program 2005 to award competitive grants for projects aimed toward improving undergraduate teaching and learning at the university. This year’s awards focused solely on outcomes-based undergraduate program assessment measures of student learning to guide decisions about improving curriculum and pedagogy. ITLE grants are funded by the University of Nebraska Foundation. To date, more than $720,000 has been committed to 47 funded projects over three years.

Employers of recent graduates in civil engineering and biological systems engineering report some students are lacking communications skills. Currently, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications provides general communications courses to satisfy requirements for civil engineering and biological systems engineering. This project will develop a tool to assess the oral and written skills of undergraduates in these programs to determine what areas need improvement.

Armed with that data, changes in curriculum and course requirements can be designed and implemented to quickly address improvements. The results of the project will help these programs refine their student assessment outcomes for written and oral communications. The assessment tool will allow continuous assessment of students and may be applicable to other Engineering and Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources departments with similar learning objectives.

—Kim Hachiya, University Communications

Project: Researching Undergraduate Student Communications Skills in Engineering
Project Coordinator: Bruce Dvorak, associate professor of civil engineering
Team Members: Mary Garbacz, lecturer, College of Journalism and Mass Communications; Dennis Schulte, professor of biological systems engineering; David Admiraal, associate professor of civil engineering
Project Dates: March 2007 to December 2008
Project Award: $16,000