of the


Task Force on Undergraduate Communication


(Murat Arcak, Engineering; Robyn Berkley, Management; Bob Messler, Engineering; Heidi Newberg, Science; Lee Odell, H&SS; Jim Zappen, H&SS)


The task force recommends that Rensselaer;


  1. Eliminate the current writing requirement as insufficient and focused too narrowly on writing rather than on communication through a variety of media, oral and visual as well as written.


  1. Replace the designation “writing intensive” with the term “communication intensive,” recognizing that students must be able to : 1) communicate orally as well as in writing; 2) integrate visual information effectively into their written and spoken work; and 3) display a set of competencies (listed at the end of these recommendations) that are essential for effective communication in a variety of media.


  1. Require all undergraduates to take at least two communication intensive courses, at least one of which will be in their major.  These courses will emphasize written, oral, and/or visual communication.  One of these communication intensive courses should be taken during a student’s first two years at Rensselaer.


  1. Establish the following criteria for designating a course “communication intensive.”


1.      Students must be required to complete at least three graded assignments that result in formal presentations in written, oral, and/or visual media.


2.      A substantial portion of the grade for the course must be based on the extent to which students display the communicative competencies listed at the end of these recommendations.


3.      Instructors must:


a)      Provide feedback on each assignment, telling students how well they are demonstrating the communicative competencies.


b)      Provide opportunities for students to incorporate feedback into their work on subsequent assignments.


  1. Establish a policy of regularly reviewing syllabi and grading policies of all communication intensive courses.  (This review might be conducted on a three-year cycle by a subcommittee of the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee.)


  1. Support the Writing Center so that it can develop:


    1. Web-based modules that will help students gain proficiency in the effective use of presentation software (e.g., PowerPoint) as well as improve their command of matters such as mechanics, style, and forms of documentation.


    1. Materials that will support the work of faculty teaching communication intensive course


    1. Instructional resources to help all students with oral and visual communication as well as with writing


    1. Resources to help specific groups of students (e.g., ESL students, graduate students working on their theses)



Communicative Competencies


Rensselaer graduates must be able to communicate effectively in a variety of media (written, spoken, visual, electronic) and in a variety of genres (reports, proposals, etc.).  Whatever the medium and genre, Rensselaer students should be able to:


1.      Understand the context in which they are communicating,


--Identifying the needs and other characteristics of their audience


--Using their understanding of their audience to determine appropriate

language and content


2.      Organize their work,


--Establishing a clear structure or principle of organization


--Creating effective introductory and concluding passages in which they identify their main point and set their work in a larger context


3.      Develop content appropriately,


--Displaying a clear ethical sensibility (e.g., reporting data accurately, citing sources of information)


--Asserting and elaborating on claims using evidence and reasoning hat are appropriate for their audience and their discipline/profession


--Applying principles of visual communication in integrating visual information (graphs, charts, animations, pictures) into their written or spoken work


4.      Edit their written work carefully,


--Observing the conventions of Standard Written English


--Observing the conventions of a particular discipline or workplace (for example, using the style sheet of a particular organization)