Facilitating the development of disciplinary knowledge and communication skills: Integrating curriculum

Year: 2001

Author: Najar, Robyn

Type of paper: Refereed paper

While proficiency in academic writing and communication skills, such as teamwork, are seen as desirable graduate outcomes in higher education, they have taken a secondary place to the teaching of specific disciplinary knowledge within curricula. Traditionally, writing, such as writing a researched report, has been a source of anxiety for students at all levels. Academic and professional expectations, unfamiliarity with the conventions of research writing, limited exposure to report writing and writing proficiency have contributed to this. Similarly, teamwork has presented students and lecturers with a myriad of difficulties from the development interpersonal skills to assessment. The following paper presents an innovative 1st-year topic designed to integrate the learning of academic and communication skills with disciplinary knowledge in engineering. The three modules comprising the topic are discussed with a focus on the key module, Language in Use (LIU). LIU is focussed on developing the skills necessary to enable students to become more successful researchers, writers and team participants in the context of engineering. The LIU curriculum presents a holistic approach to learning in which the teaching of academic and communication skills as well as disciplinary knowledge are embedded into the curriculum design. Furthermore, the curriculum is designed to connect students, lecturers and industry participants in order to support the development of writing and teamwork skills on authentic engineering tasks. Factors identified by lecturers and learners as contributing to the curriculum’s success in facilitating the learning process and resulting in a higher degree of student and lecturer satisfaction are also presented.