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English class learns to communicate through metalworking

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05.21.2004Curriculum Programs

Lillington, NC -Students in Dean Roughton's English 110 class at Central Carolina Community College's (CCCC) Harnett County Campus have been spending time designing and crafting small metal objects. At the same time the students cut and mold the metal pieces, they are learning how to better communicate in the workplace.

The students are all machining tool and die students who are taking Roughton's class to fulfill their English requirement. After noticing that all of the students on his spring roster were of the same major, Roughton teamed up with Edwin Thomas, machining technology instructor, to integrate coursework in the two classes.

"I began to think of ways to make the English class more interesting for the students, especially since they all share the same major," said Roughton. "By tailoring the projects to the students, they are learning about both English and machining technology concepts."

For the students' final project, Roughton assigned a process analysis paper after Thomas suggested the students needed work on communication skills. The students were to create a small item in the machining technology lab and then write a paper on how to build it and why they must stick to the original guidelines. Students will switch the papers and then try to build the object using only the other students' paper.

Roughton likens the process analysis paper to writing a description of a church. "If I ask a room of 30 people to describe a church, we will have 30 different descriptions based on life experiences. If I accurately describe the church, everyone should have the same picture. In machining technology the work is so precise. An accurate description is essential."

According to Thomas, good communication is one of the most sought-after skills in employees, especially in a factory setting. Having good communication skills means employees waste less time and materials. Employers want employees who can not only do the job, but can communicate instructions and relate to coworkers well. These are qualities they seek when looking to promote a worker.

"The chief complaint I hear from employers is poor communication skills," said Thomas. "These students are learning to communicate more effectively and that is a key skill for anyone who would like a chance at being promoted."

Not only are the students learning effective communication, they're also having fun. I'm making a hitch cover for my project," said Thomas McPhail, a freshman machining technology student from Spivey's Corner. "Doing this project using examples from something that interests me makes me more motivated to complete the project."

"I've taken other English classes before," adds Dave Dunn, a sophomore machining technology student who is crafting drumsticks for this project. "Mr. Roughton goes out of his way to make our class more interesting."

The students aren't the only ones learning through the collaboration. Roughton has enjoyed spending time with the students in the machine shop learning about the different types of equipment.

"I found it simply amazing to see what these guys can do with raw hunks of metal," said Roughton. "On one machine, the students key in a complex series of three dimensional coordinates, which the machine translates into some intricate designs in the metal."

English 110 is an introductory writing course that is a basic requirement for many diploma programs. The course teaches how to develop coherent documents using standard grammar and proper mechanics.