Developing Communication Skills in Engineering Students


  • M. Roeckel Universidad de Concepcion
  • E. Parra Universidad de Concepcion
  • C. Donoso Universidad de Concepcion
  • O. Mora Universidad de Concepcion
  • X. García Universidad de Concepcion


This paper presents the methodology used and results obtained in a pilot experience designed to develop and strengthen communication abilities of chemical engineering students at the Universidad de Concepción, Chile. A typical sample of 30 students was selected to attend a series of workshops taught by social science professors and aimed at developing oral and written communication skills. The students participated actively in the workshops by making oral presentations on general issues and on their specialty. The participants were evaluated by professors as well as by students (self-evaluation and co-evaluation).

Previously designed guidelines and video analysis outlines were used for evaluation. The evaluation results were shared with the students during feedback sessions, and based on those results, strengthening activities were programmed for the different groups. At the end of the workshops, most students had improved their communication skills, but the intervention had the greatest effect on those students who had originally presented the greatest difficulty for oral expression, a characteristic that could be inversely correlated with the socio-economic status of the student. To achieve greater impact of the described activity, a larger number of academics needs to participate in the program and the activities should be incorporated as a regular practice in the engineering curriculum.

Author Biographies

M. Roeckel, Universidad de Concepcion

Marlene Roeckel von Bennewitz is Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Universidad de Concepcion. She obtained her MS degree (1983) in Engineering Sciences and her BS degree (1977) in Chemical Engineering at the Universidad de Concepcion. Her research interests include environmental and food biotechnology, and clean technology in the food industry with emphasis on organic matter removal, biological treatment, and modified atmosphere packaging.

E. Parra, Universidad de Concepcion

Elizabeth Parra Ortiz is Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at the Universidad de Concepcion. She received her MA in Hispanic Literature (1986) from the Universidad de Concepcion, her MSc in Communication Sciences (1999) from the Universidad de la Frontera, and her BA is a Philosophy Professor (1978) from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. Her research interests are in university teaching innovations, skill development and society of knowledge, professional planning, entrepreneur culture, and media discourse analysis.

C. Donoso, Universidad de Concepcion

Carmen Gloria Donoso is Assistant Professor of Social Communication at the University de Concepcion. She received her MA in Journalism from Syracuse University (1969) and her BA from the University of Chile {1966). She is presently a doctoral candidate in Communication and Information at the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca. Her research interests include organizational communication, new information technologies (NIT), and NIT's impact on organizations, mass communications uses, and gender studies.

O. Mora, Universidad de Concepcion

Olga Mora ·Mardones is Associate Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Concepcion. She received her MA in Social Communication from the Universidad de Chile, Santiago, in 1989 and her BA in Social Work from the University of Concepcion in 1973. She is presently a doctoral candidate at the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, Spain, and the theme of her dissertation is communication and interpersonal trust. Her research interests are families, youth, and values.

X. García, Universidad de Concepcion

Ximena Garcia Carmona is Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Concepcion. She obtained her PhD (1991), her MSc (1989), and her BSc (1984) in chemical engineering from the University of Concepcion. Her research areas are in conversion processes (pyrolisis, combustion, and/or gasification) of coal, wood, and related materials, heterogeneous catalysis, and chemical reactions engineering (kinetics, mechanisms).