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As is true for engineering communication programs nationwide, at MIT curricular and pedagogical reforms have been driven by changes in the kinds of problems that engineers solve and the associated skill sets that engineers must now have in communication and teamwork. This article presents three case studies from communication-intensive classes at MIT that intend to help students develop the advanced communication skills required of professional engineers today. Highlighting classes in biological engineering, aeronautics/astronautics engineering, and biomedical engineering, we explore the following questions: What does it mean for educational practice if professional communication competencies and tasks are the goals? How can students and technical faculty best create the conditions for students to learn to be skilled team members? How can engineering students move from mere display of data to making skilled visual arguments based on those data? The importance of helping students meet the target competencies of professional practice, of teaching effective teamwork and collaboration, and of teaching students to understand and argue with visual data are recognized as widespread needs, and these case studies attest to the possibilities and challenges in meeting those needs.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2008