J. O. Coleman

J. O. Coleman
Margaret H. Hundleby <hundlma@mail.auburn.edu>, Auburn University
Improving Communication Skills: The Puzzle of Personal Style in Engineering Writing and Presentations
Awareness of certain aspects of the natures of two major groups of engineers may improve the way faculty work with students on written and oral presentations. The two groups correspond to the different ways that "reasoning" and "intuition" are allocated to the "inner" and "outer" task domains. Reasoning is careful, step-by-step, thorough, and slow, while intuition works quickly--one just "knows" or confidantly assumes "it can be done." Outer tasks include the "practical" specifics of an application and the outline of a paper. Inner tasks deal with applicable concepts or unifying systems and the sentence-level structure of a paper. There is a large group of engineers who apply reason to outer tasks and intuition to inner ones, leading to quick, instinctive selection of relevant concepts followed by lengthy focus on application details. As authors, they spend time on structure, filling in with sentences in a quick, intuitive way. Revision focuses on the outline. But there is another substantial group of engineers who apply reason to inner tasks and intuition to outer ones, investing time in rigorous development of unifying concepts or systems followed by a quick and instinctive application. As authors, they intuit macro structure while focusing care on sentences, often revising details fanatically. The differences between the groups naturally suggest different approaches in working with them on their writing and oral presentations.
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Presented at the ASEE North Midwest Section Meeting, Fargo ND, October 1996.