Promoting Rhetorical Awareness and Perceived Self-Efficacy: Engineering Undergraduate Students Creating Preparedness Portfolios About Communication
Mobrand, Kathryn Ann
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Effective communication has been identified in recent years as a crucial competency for practicing engineers by industry professionals, educators, engineering graduates working in the field, and current engineering undergraduate students. In particular, it has been suggested that engineers of the future will face increasingly complex and spatially distributed audiences and contexts, will work with rapidly changing information technologies, and will occupy positions of increasing influence where they have more opportunities to effect societal change. In addition, it has been noted that the increasingly shifting workplace landscape will require engineers to be adaptable and self-regulating, seeing the need and taking responsibility for their own life-long learning. To address the need for students to develop more nuanced understandings of the communication of engineering practice, this dissertation explores engineering undergraduate students' rhetorical awareness and perceived self-efficacy and the potential of a particular pedagogical intervention--preparedness portfolios and portfolio studios (PPPS) (Turns et al. 2012)--for facilitating this exploration. A qualitative, multiple-case study is reported here that engaged ten engineering undergraduate students in the creation of preparedness portfolios in a collaborative studio setting. Students' experiences were captured through multiple survey instruments, individual interviews, as well as through the content of the portfolios that they created. The PPPS pedagogy, implemented in a Communication Portfolio Studio created a rhetorical community in which the participants worked collaboratively to create their arguments about their preparedness to communicate as practicing engineers. A three-part analysis was conducted to determine what was revealed about the participants' rhetorical awareness through their engagement in the Studio, how the Studio experience impacted their rhetorical awareness, and what their enactment of rhetorical awareness looked like in the Studio. A two-stage analysis for perceived self-efficacy was conducted: the first stage determined what impacts the Studio experience had on participants' perceived self-efficacy for communicating as practicing engineers; the second stage analyzed their statements of Studio impacts through the framework of Bandura's hypothesized sources of self-efficacy information. Findings suggest that the Communication Portfolio Studio is an effective pedagogical approach for not only revealing, but also enhancing, the state of students' rhetorical awareness and perceived self-efficacy with respect to the communication of engineering practice.