Original Research

Design principles for integrating language and communication skills into engineering education

Tharina Spoelstra, Gary W. Collins
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 19, No 1 | a1369 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v19i1.1369 | © 2023 Tharina Spoelstra, Gary W. Collins | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 May 2023 | Published: 13 November 2023

About the author(s)

Tharina Spoelstra, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Gary W. Collins, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Developing competencies in language and communication is becoming increasingly important for the contemporary engineering student if career success and community engagement are to be enhanced. The integration of language, and other ‘soft-skills’, into broader engineering education could assist in preparing students to become more employable and improve their overall engineering ability. This study adopted a design-based research strategy to develop design principles regarding the integration of language and communication skills into engineering education. Eleven participants were purposefully sampled to form part of a design team that became responsible for this development. The principles that emerged emphasised the role culture plays in the process of learning, highlighting the importance of embracing cultural diversity in ways that frame it as a strength to be exploited. Differing abilities and levels of English language proficiency need to be accommodated, requiring lecturers to build in a feedback process to manage progress and effective student engagement. It is advisable to adopt a holistic approach to teaching and learning, and to pay careful attention to appropriate learning strategies. An integrated learning environment necessitates the dismantling of the traditional silos that have characterised engineering education and greater cooperation among various disciplines needs to be encouraged.

Transdisciplinary contribution: The integration of language and communication into engineering education goes beyond the boundaries of individual disciplines and involves collaboration between the faculties of engineering and humanities as well as industry partners, and accreditation bodies. The diverse range of expertise required, range from linguistics and pedagogy to engineering and instructional design.


Keywords

engineering communication skills; syllabus integration; design-based research; design principles; language proficiency; transversal skills; soft skills

JEL Codes

D80: General; F00: General; I20: General

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

Metrics

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