Student beliefs about learning communication skills

Kelly Cross, Marie Paretti, Holly Matusovich

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Communication remains an essential skill for engineering graduates in both academic and industry settings, and ABET considers it a key student learning outcome for accreditation. Despite numerous studies of effective approaches to integrating communication into disciplinary courses, few engineering courses apply those approaches. To address this gap, we have undertaken a multi-year mixed methods study to explore faculty and student beliefs about communication. Faculty beliefs have been reported elsewhere; this paper focuses on student beliefs. We analyzed five focus groups conducted with engineering students at partner schools. The focus groups sought to uncover students' beliefs about where and how they learned communication skills within their engineering education. Focus groups were recorded and transcribed verbatim, then coded using standard open-coding procedures. The findings indicate that while students do have opportunities to practice communication in engineering courses, they may not always have optimal opportunities to learn communication in those courses. Most notably, students desired more examples and direct instruction for communication skills, including not only samples of "good" documents but also explanations about why they were good. Identifying pedagogical gaps between faculty practice and student experiences can help us develop targeted strategies to help creatively integrate these critical skills into an already packed engineering curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2013 Frontiers in Education Conference
Subtitle of host publicationEnergizing the Future, FIE 2013 - Proceedings
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event43rd IEEE Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2013 - Oklahoma City, OK, United States
Duration: Oct 23 2013Oct 26 2013

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Other43rd IEEE Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityOklahoma City, OK


  • Communication
  • Situated learning
  • Student beliefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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