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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2010
DOI: 10.5062/F45D8PSD

Book Reviews

Learning to Communicate in Science and Engineering

Kristin Whitehair
A.R. Dykes Library
University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas City, Kansas

Copyright 2010, Kristin Whitehair. Used with permission.

Learning to Communicate in Science and Engineering: Case Studies from MIT. Mya Poe, Neal Lerner, and Jennifer Craig. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2010. ISBN: 9780262162470

Poe, Lerner, and Craig provide a detailed account of effective programs that are offered by MIT to ensure that their students develop the needed communication skills to be successful in the sciences. This work begins with articulating the common problem found in higher education for the sciences of communication skills being largely overlooked throughout the curriculum. Ranging from written and oral communication to individual and group communication projects, the case studies from MIT provide an excellent background for fellow academics seeking to enrich and strengthen student communication skills through curriculum at their own institutions. As the book title indicates, case studies are the mechanism used in the book to demonstrate how communication skills instruction is incorporated into the MIT curriculum. The focus of the case studies is on collaborative projects that integrate communication skills into the overall curriculum.

The large task of incorporating instruction to enhance students' communication skills is divided into four main areas: identifying of a professional researcher, developing a research niche, making arguments based on data, and writing and speaking collaboratively. Chapters devoted to each of these topics provide specific examples of how each of the programs supplements traditional coursework to assist students in developing communication skills.

The work is highly recommended for libraries that support academic programs in the sciences. This work is appropriate for graduate students and faculty. It includes appendices detailing data collection methods and instruments, references, and an index. In addition to providing written descriptions of programs, figures are used to illustrate projects. For example, in the first chapter an example of a student's first draft is presented in contrast to the final draft to demonstrate the improvement in communication skills as demonstrated in the assignment. The use of case studies is an element that differentiates this work from other similar works such as The Idea of a Writing Laboratory by Neal Lerner (also an author of the reviewed title).

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