Can game-based learning enhance engineering communication skills?

Cheryl A. Bodnar, Renee M. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Research problem: The enhancement of communication skills among engineering students has been a focus within the engineering curriculum for many years. Despite this emphasis, continual published reports document that engineering graduates are not well versed in the areas of written and oral communication when they graduate and transition into industrial-based positions. This study focuses on examining whether game-based pedagogy could serve as a potential tool for enhancing the written and oral communication skills of engineering undergraduates. Research questions: (1) What is the relationship between communication game exposure and oral and written communication skills achievement in engineering students? (2) Do engineering students' perceptions of their oral and written communication skills development associated with participation in communication games align with their achievement in these areas? Literature review: This study examines the ability of games to enhance engineering student communication skills by using the lens of activity theory. This communication theory was chosen because it describes how the creation of a piece of communication goes beyond traditional features such as grammar and syntax to include grappling with the objective or goal of the work, the system within which the product must be completed, and the methods selected to subdivide the work. These same constraints were imposed on the students within this study, in which they were assigned a technical design report and infomercial (or elevator pitch) to assess their oral and written communication skills. Methodology: Three groups of a sophomore-level Introduction to Chemical Product Design course compared non-games, games, and games-plus instructional methods. Student design reports and infomercials were scored by two analysts using reliable and validated rubrics. Team-based performance scores for each of the three sections were compared to determine whether any resulting differences in communication achievement were associated with the incorporation of game-based activities within the classroom. Students' perceptions of their communication skill development were measured through survey instruments and focus groups. The focus group data were content-analyzed by the same two analysts using a coding scheme developed from an emergent qualitative analysis of the focus group data. Results and conclusion: We found that the use of game-based pedagogy within engineering classes can enhance oral and written communication skills even though this method of instruction is not always perceived by students as relevant to their achievement in these areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7817740
Pages (from-to)24-41
Number of pages18
JournalIEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Industrial relations
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Can game-based learning enhance engineering communication skills?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this