DEPLOYING ENGINEERING CASES TO FACILITATE PROBLEM-BASED THINKING IN ENGINEERING COMMUNICATIONS
Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA)
First-year engineering students often struggle to communicate the value of their work because they do not understand how problem-based reasoning drives engineering research and industry. Recognizing the effectiveness of discipline-specific teaching of the conventions of engineering communications, researchers have recently suggested the value of teaching the Swales "CARS" model to help students contextualize and justify their work. In two sections of Communications for the Engineering
... gineering Profession at the University of Waterloo, we incorporated teaching of the Swales model of problem-based reasoning to help students understand the conventions of engineering communications, but found that authentic engineering documents are often too complex for this purpose. To address this limitation, we deployed engineering cases in two electrical/computer engineering courses to exemplify this model, and used pre-teaching and post-teaching surveys to measure students' perceptions of improvement in their ability to understand problem-based reasoning and apply it to project conceptualization. The results show that using simplified engineering cases of this kind both improves students' ability to use this model and improves their confidence in doing so. This outcome has implications for increasingly popular engineering-communications courses because it demonstrates the value of using realistic but simplified engineering scenarios to teach the Swales model in authentic and effective engineering communication.