A Framework for Language and Communication in the CDIO Syllabus

A Framework for Language and Communication in the CDIO Syllabus

J. Rinder, T. Geslin, D. Tual (2016).  A Framework for Language and Communication in the CDIO Syllabus. 14.

Advocating and Integrating Interpersonal Skills: A presentation of the Global Engineers’ Language Skills Project

Together with teamwork, communication forms the basis of Interpersonal Skills, the CDIO syllabus’ third section. The syllabus is comprehensive in its expectations for sound communication skills in both first and additional languages but, despite its scope and detail, it is still easy to stumble on fundamental questions about purpose, media, audience and, perhaps most importantly, the students’ needs when devising a curriculum for language and communication.

More often than not, the responsibility to answer these questions falls to the teachers in our universities’ language and communication departments, whose integration within technical universities and engineering departments is often superficial and limited. Furthermore, language teachers rarely have a technical background and typically have limited scope to communicate and cooperate with engineers in industry.

This paper responds to the issues described above by presenting the work of the Global Engineers’ Language Skills (GELS) project. GELS is a collaborative project between three language teachers at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) (Sweden), the University of Cambridge (UK) and the Université de Lorraine (France). The aim of the project is to investigate and categorise the necessary and desirable first language, additional language and more general communication skills for engineering graduates based on input from industry, and to ensure that these findings support the teaching and learning of language and communication in technical universities and engineering departments.

To fulfil this aim, the GELS team is preparing a teaching guide for language and communication departments who work with engineering students. This work is divided into four phases. Firstly, the language and communication requirements of engineers are clarified by means of a series of questionnaires completed by a broad range of engineers working in industry. Secondly, these requirements are mapped against the skills and proficiency levels (A1 – C2) of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and, in effect, the framework is rewritten for the specific needs of engineers. Thirdly, a catalogue of teaching and learning activities is recommended for each skill at each proficiency level. The final phase is the dissemination of the project’s findings, conclusions and ideas for teaching and learning activities.

This paper presents results from the first two stages of the project, which show that the perennial questions of formality in oral communications and the readability of texts are two common areas of perceived weakness among engineers in industry. As well as giving insights into less extensive areas of concern, this paper will also explore the potential benefits and limitations of the field of Language for Specific Purposes (LSP) to better prepare students for industry and for the CDIO initiative more generally. In conclusion, by sharing examples of the ongoing third stage of the GELS project, it is argued that a more effective and confident integration of language and communication classes with engineering courses could not only be within our reach, but should rather be a priority to ensure that our students can engineer effectively.

Proceedings of the 12th International CDIO Conference, Turku, Finland, June 12-16 2016

Authors (New): 
Jamie Rinder
Teresa Sweeney Geslin
David Tual
KTH Royal Institute of Technology,Sweden
Institut Mines Télécom, France
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Communication skills
Language for Specific Purposes (LSP)
CDIO Standard 2
CDIO Standard 3
CDIO Standard 7
CDIO Standard 10
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