- phase completed
- phase in-progress
The 27 faculty members in the Construction Management major, part of the College of Continuing & Professional Studies, offer its 150+ enrolled students their expertise in such fields as construction engineering, facility management, and architecture. Students and faculty in this department bring their professional experience to their studies and work in a range of written genres from proposals, professional contracts, specifications, and business communications to include reporting, persuasion, argumentation, and group writing.
Writing in Construction Management
The Construction Management faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “What characterizes academic and professional communication in this discipline?"
The construction industry is a client-focused, relationship-centric business requiring its workers to demonstrate communication skills involving technical knowledge of building and efficient use of resources. Writing in the construction industry is characterized by concise, focused communication that satisfies contractual requirements, identifies and solves problems, and establishes a historical record of a project or process. Very little academic writing is produced within the industry, with the greatest writing efforts focused on professional communication. The primary industry- standard writing genres, as determined overwhelmingly by our industry-rooted faculty and confirmed by the WEC industry survey, consist of the following (% industry response):
- Correspondence (letters, memoranda, e-mails, etc.) (98%)
- Proposals, presentations, or feasibility studies (92%)
- Reports: observation, recordkeeping, or minutes (82%)
- Budgets or cost delivery (71%)
- Interpretations of sketches, graphics, or technical drawings (49%)
- Technical documents (specifications, lab reports) (16%)
- Procedures or manuals (16%)
- Schedules, written or graphic (16%)
- Industry-standard contract documents and forms (CO, COR, PR, RFI) (16%)
Following the WEC survey of our faculty and industry constituents, the following predominant writing characteristics emerged:
- Descriptive: ability to convey process, describe objects, data, environments, etc.
- Explanatory: translating complex content into comprehensible definitions and/or instructions
- Analytical: emphasizing the logical examination of subjects
- Argumentative: positioned to persuade readers
- Technical: emphasizing accurate, complex, and relatively objective information, data, etc.
Further, summarizing the WEC survey, faculty overwhelmingly identified the following abilities they most wanted to strengthen in their students through their teaching:
- Analyzing and creating concise summaries of ideas, texts, or events
- Appropriately using terminology and jargon along with correct grammar and punctuation
- Creating precise descriptions of processes, objects, and findings.
Writing Abilities Expected of Construction Management Majors
The Construction Management faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “With which writing abilities should students in this unit’s major(s) graduate?”
Minimum Requirements for Writing in the Major:
Communicate clearly: Articulate problems, proposals, procedures, and policies using concrete, unambiguous language.
Use evidence: Habitually maintain and comprehensively recall, recite, and apply documents, records, notes, data, and independent research in support of critical thinking.
Communicate about problems and conflicts: Objectively analyze, recite, assess, evaluate, interpret, and communicate issues, problems, conflicts, and their solutions.
Understand and address stakeholder concerns: Inspire confidence using language, tone, authentic voice, and technical detail appropriate to the stakeholder perspective and ability to comprehend.
Correctly use industry-standard documents: Read, create, modify, and interpret drawings, forms, and other industry-standard documents.
Interpret technical material: Demonstrate mastery and proper application of technical terminology, tools, jargon, and software.
Menu of Grading Criteria Used in Construction Management Courses
The key to measuring progress across the course and the curriculum is to have a generally uniform set of rating criteria that reflect the writing abilities we want students to possess upon graduation. Following the initial rating of student writing, the following list reflects a more granular set of rating criteria, unchanged from previous editions:
1. Communication is clear: Problems, proposals, procedures, and policies are articulated using concrete, unambiguous language.
- Is mechanically correct: Correctly applies grammar, spelling, word usage, and punctuation.
- Language is clear: Meaning is easily and rapidly comprehensible and statements are not subject to multiple interpretations. Uses no unnecessary words. Sentences are not overlong or run together.
- Presentation has satisfactory construction: Paragraphing is used effectively; bullet points and subheads used where appropriate.
- Purpose or central objective is made clear.
- Follows a coherent and logical progression (can be outlined easily): transitions are clear and show connected ideas.
2. Evidence is used: Documents, records, notes, data, and independent research are habitually maintained and comprehensively recalled, recited, and applied in support of critical thinking.
- Documentation is sufficient: Notes, minutes, and results are consistently, accurately, and comprehensively recorded without bias as to fact, date, time, and place.
- Arguments have support: Relevant notes, data, research, and records are cited sufficiently in support of arguments or positions.
- Evidence is used logically: data, research, and records are applied to analysis or problem solving in a logical manner.
3. Problems, conflicts, and issues are objectively analyzed, recited, assessed, evaluated, and interpreted, and solutions are proposed.
- Problems analyzed sufficiently: Issues, problems, or conflicts and their solutions are recited and/or accurately summarized.
- Problems analyzed without bias, supported by facts.
- Problem presentation is balanced: Varying relevant stakeholder positions are presented and contrasted toward a balanced perspective of the problem or conflict.
4. Stakeholder concerns understood and addressed: Language, tone, authentic voice, and technical detail are used appropriate to the stakeholder perspective and ability to comprehend and in a manner that inspires confidence.
- Audience level of comprehension is met: Target audience is consistently addressed by using understandable language and technical detail.
- Is courteous and respectful: Tone that is appropriate to the audience and acknowledges its positions and concerns related to the issue is used in a manner that supports goodwill.
- Sounds natural and friendly. Arguments or issues are portrayed using the writer’s authentic voice; is neither overly formal nor informal.
5. Drawings, forms, and other industry-standard documents are correctly read, created, modified, and interpreted.
- Standard documents used where needed: Contract forms are applied correctly for a given situation.
- Documents contain all necessary information: Contracts, schedule of values, and other documents are accurately completed.
- Document supporting materials well-explained: Drawings, contract documents, and forms are precisely interpreted.
6. Technical material interpreted: Mastery and proper application of technical terminology, tools, jargon, and software is demonstrated.
- Problems, proposals, or procedures are technically and factually correct.
- Technical terminology and jargon is correctly used, and explained where necessary.
- Software (scheduling, budgeting, and word processing) used on appropriate occasions; used correctly; and explained adequately.
- Citations correctly used: included where needed to identify non-original information, in a complete and accurate manner.
- Graphic content appropriately used: included when needed, clearly executed, and properly captioned and cited.
Highlights from the Writing Plan
With its third-edition Writing Plan, Construction Management has implemented a new process of review for courses, focused specifically on writing. Building off of the success of the Student Writing Style Guide, this process of review creates incentives for faculty to incorporate meaningful writing instruction in all courses to directly support their teaching and ensures consistency in expectations across courses. WEC support helps to bring subject matter experts, instructional designers, and writing professionals together to ensure the best writing environments for students. This regular process of review not only leads to the ongoing improvement of course materials but also helps ensure the long-term, consistent commitment to high-quality writing instruction in the Construction Management program.
Finally, an article describing the program's WEC work has been published:
Wagner, H., Hilger, A.P., and Flash, P. (2014) Improving writing skills of construction management undergraduates: Developing tools for empirical analysis of writing to create writing-enriched construction management curriculum. International Journal of Construction Education and Research, 10(2).