The Self-Reported Confidence and Proficiency Levels in Communication Skills: A Comparison of Senior Capstone Students and Undergraduate Students in a Technical Communication Course

Anne Parker, Kathryn Marcynuk, Vanier Scholar
2018 Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA)  
One study of American college students foundthat students generally rate such attributes as publicspeaking and writing (along with academic ability ingeneral) as above average [6]. So we wanted to see if ourengineering students felt the same. To do so, weconducted our study over two phases and over multipleyears. The second phase grew out of an earlier one, phaseone, conducted between the winter term, 2013 and thewinter term, 2016. In the first phase, we administered asurvey that asked 2nd year
more » ... technical communicationstudents to self-report on their levels of proficiency andconfidence in their communication skills – writing,speaking, teamwork and personal skills development (orlifelong learning) [2][5]. In all, 370 students completed thesurvey.This survey, administered at the beginning andtoward the end of the course, asked 20 questions relatedto communication tasks that we routinely ask them to doas part of the course, such as writing documents of >5pages or <5 pages, or giving a speech to groups of >20or <20 people. The survey, which took about 10 minutesto complete, was completely anonymous so that studentscould not be matched to grades nor could we determinewhy a student responded in a particular way. This earlierstudy found that students felt they had a moderate level ofconfidence in their communication skills, but they alsobelieved that the expected level of proficiency in theirsenior year would be substantially higher than theircurrent levels; that is, whereas they believed these currentlevels were, on average, 3 on the CDIO scale of 5, theybelieved the expected proficiency levels would be 4.5 onaverage.We were then curious to see how students in thesenior (capstone) design courses would respond to thesame survey. Once again, the survey was anonymous andcould not be matched to a particular student. Our goal insurveying capstone students was to see whether they stillfelt at least moderately confident in their communicationskills (for the most part, they do) and whether they nowfeel more proficient in communicating the informationthat supports the engineering work done in the course.Our expectation was that this cohort of senior capstonestudents would feel more proficient and confident thantheir younger selves
doi:10.24908/pceea.v0i0.13010 fatcat:3hezaude4vgt7mtrcspuhhd3hm