Workplace communication practices and perceptions of novice engineers



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This dissertation argues that instructors of engineering communication must continue to study workplace practices and gather perceptions of managers to provide students with relevant instruction. Responding to a 2011 ASEE “call-to-action” to explore gaps that exist between workplace communication and the classroom instruction, this mixed-methods case study explores the communication practices of 11 novice engineers who have or will graduate from a large Midwest university and their manager’s perceptions regarding the effectiveness of their workplace communication skills. Influenced by the numerous scholars who have conducted this type of research, the study employed similar data collection methods to gather information, including surveys, contextual inquiry with researcher observations and interviews, and diary studies. Many findings are consistent with literature, such as the frequency of communicating through informal oral genres, and the variety of internal audiences that the engineer interacts with and the frequency of communicating with their manager. However, the main findings that have not been often reported in the literature include the importance of building relationships with downstream and external audiences; the involvement and variety of meeting communications; the frequency of preparation and communication through electronic communication; the immediate responsibilities required of novice engineers to manage projects, resources, and personnel; and the frequency and the awareness of participating on multi-disciplinary project teams while being the only engineer within their discipline. These findings and their teaching implications will inform the researcher’s pedagogy and add to the body of literature on current workplace communication practices and perceptions of novice engineers.



Engineering communication, Contextual inquiry, Pedagogy