Educational tools for teaching policy and science communication to engineering students

Sotiria Koloutsou-Vakakis, Ashlynn S. Stillwell

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Literature and experience show that even though we train engineers to be society's problem solvers, we pay less attention to discussing scientists' and engineers' roles in developing and implementing the policies that ultimately determine society's well-being. We present experience from two courses we teach to science and engineering students, with the intention to cross the engineering-policy boundary. These courses are offered at the upper-level undergraduate and graduate levels and they have an environmental focus. The first course is focused on the policy making process at both the national and international levels and the role of science communication in policy making. The second course is focused on water technology and policies. The challenge in introducing engineering students to policy is that it requires students to read non-technical references with a new vocabulary and style and to write in a different style and for diverse audiences (e.g., different social groups and their elected representatives). In a sense, while we teach students to communicate the rigor of their work in technical writing in other engineering courses, in the policy-oriented courses, we ask them to 'unlearn' complex phrasing, avoid professional jargon, leave the technical details for the Appendix, and invert the narration triangle, focusing on message first, with clarity and simplicity, in the most efficient communication mode with the shortest possible delivery time. With reference to the pedagogical bases we have adopted, we present an overview of pedagogical approaches and resources we use in these two courses and share characteristic modules from our courses that demonstrate a) the use of case studies, and b) multi-modal approaches to teaching science-policy communication in engineering courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 25 2023
Externally publishedYes
Event2023 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - The Harbor of Engineering: Education for 130 Years, ASEE 2023 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2023Jun 28 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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