Teaching Civil Engineers to Communicate Effectively: Teaching Technical Communication in a Student’s First Engineering Course

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


ABET requires that graduates of accredited institutions have “an ability to communicate effectively.” The importance of effective communication of technical information is also addressed in the ASCE Body of Knowledge. How schools meet this outcome varies by institution but about half of the schools surveyed for this paper require a specific course on the subject. Constraints at the United States Military Academy (programs can not extend beyond four years and a very large core curriculum) make it impractical to require a technical communications course. In order to educate our graduates about this specific type of communication rather than simply have them “learn by doing” in their engineering courses, the Civil Engineering program now includes an introduction to technical writing in the first engineering course our students take. By using a number of short, focused reading assignments from a technical writing guide, several short memorandum assignments, and a complete laboratory report, students taking Fundamentals of Engineering Mechanics and Design now leave with one more fundamental – the ability to effectively communicate technical information. This paper discusses our experience of teaching technical writing in an existing introductory engineering course and includes feedback from students and instructors as well as some of our lessons learned.

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