Ballentine, Brian D.. “Professional Writing and a ‘Whole New Mind’: Engaging with Ethics, Intellectual Property, Design, and Globalization.” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 51.3 (2008): 328-40. Print.
Abstract: This paper describes a new cross-curricular design for an engineering communication course based on four themes: (1) ethics, accountability, and professionalism; (2) intellectual property; (3) design, creativity, and invention; and (4) globalization. It is believed that the thematic structure creates both dynamic and contemporary contexts for writing and research along with enough freedom to pursue individual student interests. The result is a higher degree of intrinsic motivation for the assignments. The course is a collaborative effort between an English department and a school of engineering designed to both improve curriculum and provide more assessment data for engineering accreditation. Among the criteria from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the “ability to communicate effectively.” Along with satisfying this criterion, the course discussed in this paper details how to capture data in support of an additional four of ABET’s criteria known as “a–k.” After highlighting these ABET criteria and giving an overview of the structure of the course, the paper details each theme, including their respective readings and assignments. This new course was taught for the first time in the 2006–2007 academic year, and the paper closes by weighing the outcomes and implications of adopting a similar format. The current version of the syllabus and reading list for this course are included in this paper.
- The class that B. is proposing is centered around four themes: 1) ethics, accountability, and professionalism; 2) intellectual property; 3) design, creativity, and invention; and 4) globalization (328). In addition to teaching genres, B. situates his tech comm class in relation to these four themes. The students won’t write on these themes; rather, they’ll incorporate the themes into writing about other technical processes.
- B. notes that Engineering departments have become more reliant on English departments to meet the ABET requirement for “communicating effectively” (329). As such, he discusses the relationship between the two bodies in this piece.
- Theme 1: Ethics, Accountability, and Professionalism – This theme underscored the ethical component of engineering work by complicating teleological accounts of engineering by introducing the element of human well-being. Different codes of ethics from engineering are considered in the class and the relationship between engineering, ethics, and the act of writing as tool use is investigated.
- Theme 2: IP – Plagiarism as a moral – not legal – violation is emphasized. Patents, non-disclosure agreements, and general IP are discussed. Lessig is used as a reading (Free Culture). Many case studies of relevant IP related litigation are considered.
- Theme 3: Design, Creativity, and Invention – This theme emphasizes the idea that “art, creativity, and design” are important in any engineering endeavor (334). Combined with communication, B. calls these the “soft skills” necessary in any engineering work.
- Theme 4: Globalization – Outsourcing and the pressures of transnational trade are considered from both positive and negative perspectives. For better or worse, B. relies on Freidman’s The World is Flat to reconsider the globalized stage of engineering work in the 21st century.
- B. provides a lovely and extremely useful course schedule at the end of the article. Overall, this piece is really, really helpful.