Friday 14 February 2014

EQ and Communication Skills in Engineering

It should be noted that EQ is not the opposite of IQ.In industry, IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted [21]. For example, a manager at AT&TBell Labs was asked to rank his top performing engineers. High IQ was not the deciding factor, butinstead how the person performed regarding answeringe-mails, how good they were at collaborating and networking with colleagues (rather than lone wolf), andtheir popularity with others (rather than sociallyawkward) in order to achieve the cooperation required to attain the goals [21].This example highlights the benefits of high EQ regarding communication skills, time management,teamwork, leadership skills and business acumen.These important skills flow on from emotional intelligence,such as the skilful recognition of others’emotional reactions and empathy to come across as genuine and warm, which will achieve greater cooperation from others, rather than coming across as oblivious and boorish. The engineer’s stereotypical negative image of the socially inept genius can inhibit student recruitment and retention. This may be countered through graduates employing EQ tactics in the workplace, thereby generating an improved image for engineers through interaction. However, these skills must be educed in the engineering students in the first place. In corporating elements of EQ learning in studies, rather than as a separate study unit or module, will link learning and work attitudes, including motivation, creativity and interpersonal skills, with the tasks at hand, such as project work. Learning EQ skills seems to be in line with experiential learning and a constructivist approach to studies, as EQ by nature implies an experiential approach. Encouraging students to learn these new skills through project work activities and in student-centred learning will succeed more than would a stand-alone lecture on EQ; theory without practice does not run very far.The heavy traditionalism of many courses have the perspective of teaching only real engineering, ie defining and isolating problems and achieving technical solutions. Exposure to this culture of traditionalist engineering education not only discourages reflection, but also generates future engineers who both lack and do not appreciate the value of the skills of reflection [22]. As such, do engineering studies actively discourage the EQ factor by the very nature of the traditionalist style of teaching in this field? Such traditionalist teaching imparts engineering as a discipline rather than as a career. Enhancing communication skills across the curricula, again rather than in a stand-alone subject, will contribute to higher EQ by targeting certain elements. This includes delivery of oral presentations in engineering studies and incorporating communication and presentation skills in the marking structure of reports so that the students treat them more seriously. This may involve a restructuring of certain components of subjects and, indeed, the curriculum. Experiential approaches, which involve the student in the actual experience of communication, with opportunities for debriefing and re-application, provide opportunities for the development of self-awareness. Videotape playbacks of oral presentations also stimulate reflection in the student. Constructivist approaches build on past learning and should be utilised to build on students’ positive learning experiences to enhance learning and skills development. Role-play will encourage self-awareness, while role reversal will contribute to the student’s understanding of empathy, of knowing how the other side perceives engineers. Indeed, this need not be confined to specifically engineering concerns. However, such context-specific role-play will help to cement those skills within the engineering framework. Building opportunities for reflection will also contribute to greater EQ understanding as the students become more self aware. Another study in software engineering found that reflective essay tasks generated gains in student development activity, the students saw the impact of their practices and began to connect practices with potential improvement strategies. Furthermore, the students could also articulate the influence of their own work and motivation on the quality of output, thereby engendering a deeper under standing of the subject [23]. In this example, incorporating a greater emphasis on communication activities served to enhance EQ aspects, including more active participation, greater self-control and awareness, heightened motivation and a better understanding of course material. Teamwork and cooperation will help engender EQ qualities and are particularly important skills given the high level team-based environments in industry. This will include negotiation skills between team workers.

With Best Wishes.........................

Deepali Agravat

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