Using systemic functional linguistics to analyze engineering speak in an introductory materials science & engineering course

Jacquelyn E. Kelly, Stephen Krause, Dale R. Baker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Students can use technical language consistent with science and engineering norms yet may not understand the meaning of these words. This phenomenon has been examined in science classrooms by many researchers. However, little work has been done in the context of engineering which requires students to not only be able to use engineering terms and understand natural science concepts, but to also be able to clearly articulate and understand these concepts with respect to their use in engineering applications. In order to understand and interpret student academic language, a lens to analyze and quantify it is required. This paper will answer the research question, "How can student proficiency of engineering academic language be assessed?" To answer this question, a functional view of linguistics will be used as a theoretical framework for interpreting engineering academic language. While traditional views of language focus primarily on grammar, which works with the structure of sentences, a functional view of linguistics examines the relationships between these structural components of language and their contexts and meanings. This theoretical lens is particularly relevant to engineering language, since understanding its use in the context of engineering design is of utmost importance. Systemic functional linguistics (SFL) will be used as a theoretical framework for analyzing engineering speak in an introductory materials science and engineering course. A written engineering design task, asking students to use as much engineering knowledge and vocabulary as possible to discuss the design of a bicycle. This task was administered three times to students over the course of a semester. The potential for using an SFL framework was demonstrated by analyzing a student's engineering speak as it progressed across a semester of the course. Preliminary results suggest that student language use can be monitored and assessed successfully over the course of a semester, and could potentially allow an instructor to make instructional decisions to enhance and maximize student learning. Challenges, affordances, and results of interpreting engineering speak through an SFL lens will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
ISBN (Print)9780878232413
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Event119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - San Antonio, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2012Jun 13 2012

Other

Other119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
CountryUnited States
CitySan Antonio, TX
Period6/10/126/13/12

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Using systemic functional linguistics to analyze engineering speak in an introductory materials science & engineering course'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this