F3-PRO3-3 - Improving Writing Skills Among Information Systems Students: Guidelines for Incorporating Communication Components in Higher Education

2. Research-to-Practice Full Paper
Kai Wistrand1 , Jonas Moll1, Mathias Hatakka1, Annika Andersson1
1 Örebro University School of Business, CERIS, Örebro, Sweden

The communications skills of students enrolled in technically oriented programmes, which are in focus in this full paper, is often overlooked and courses tend to focus on practical engineering skills rather than abilities to efficiently communicate results and findings [1, 2]. An external evaluation of a bachelor programme in Information Systems at a Swedish University concluded that the scientific papers produced in the programme were of poor quality. Likewise, course evaluations gave a clear indication that many students felt poorly prepared for the task of writing their bachelor thesis. 

This paper reports of two different approaches to overcome this type of problem. The first example takes its outset in a collegial project where all courses curricula were reviewed in order to include activities related to academic writing.  

The second example used in this paper is a course in engineering communication that is mandatory for first year computer science students. The course focuses on both written and verbal communication skills and results in a scientific report.

Theoretically, the research presented in this paper is positioned within curriculum theory and constructive alignment. Curriculum theory is a sub-theory of educational theory and is devoted to e.g., shaping educational curricula to improve learning or investigating which values govern curricula design [3]. Pinar [4] describes curriculum as a ‘complicated conversation’ between older and younger generations that should be based on research and educational experience. Within curriculum theory, constructive alignment is an approach, based on constructivist theories of learning, that proposes the alignment of intended learning outcomes, learning tasks and assessments [5]. Constructive alignment has had a major impact on the instructional design literature [6] and in curriculum design in higher education worldwide [7].  

In this paper we will discuss and contrast the two examples introduced above, in light of the introduced theory. The ambition is to extrapolate a set of guidelines

for how to introduce communication components in technically oriented higher education courses. These guidelines can be used to develop the practice of writing curricula for courses in Engineering, Computer science and Information systems.

Keywords: Writing practice, Pedagogy, Engineering, Information Systems…

References

  1. Dakich, M. Integrating Writing and Speaking Skills into the Engineering Curriculum. in IPCC 91 Proceedings The Engineered Communication. 1991. Orlando, Fl, USA.
  2. Nadeem, M., M. Blumenstein, and M. Biglari-Abhari. Exploring the Impact of in Class Writing Exercises in an Engineering Course. in 2018 IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE). 2018. Wollongong, NSW, Australia.
  3. Beauchamp, G.A., Curriculum theory. 4th ed. 1981, Itasca, Ill.: F.E. Peacock Publishers. x, 221 p.
  4. Pinar, W.F., What is curriculum theory? Third Edition. ed. Studies in Curriculum Theory series. 2019, New York: Routledge. xiv, 230 pages.
  5. Biggs, J.B. and C.S.-k. Tang, Teaching for quality learning at university : what the student does. 4th ed. 2011, Maidenhead, England; New York: McGraw-Hill/Society for Research into Higher Education/Open University Press. xxii, 389 p.
  6. Biggs, J., Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 1996. 32(3): p. 347-364.
  7. Kandlbinder, P., Constructive alignment in university teaching. HERDSA News, 2014. 36(3): p. 5-6.