Disciplinary Literacy Research

DisciplinaryLiteracy Research

DisciplinaryLiteracy Research

Literacyis broadly defined as the process of acquiring reading and writingskills and productively engaging these skills in practicaloperations. Therefore, being literate means having the capacity towrite, read and apply what has been presented through writing orspeech to make engage in practical activities. Engineering is a broaddiscipline in science and technology involved with designconstruction, improvement and use of machines, structures andengines. Mechanical engineering is a branch in engineering thatspecifically concentrates on studying, designing, assembling andconstructing machines for use. Acquisition of relevant skills tounderstand all basic and complex principles of mechanical engineeringrequires fundamental literacy skills in the discipline. The reportexplores literacy aspects in mechanical engineering.

Mechanicalengineering is a science and technology culture that combinesprinciples in different fields of physics, engineering and materialscience to explore the properties of materials, movements, forces,and associated principles of structures and bodies (Avallone,Baumeister, &amp Sadegh, 2006). To become an engineer, one requiresknowing all the relevant principles, laws, rules and standardsrelated to engineering. In addition, engineering students requirefundamental skills in interpreting literary materials, interpretingdesigns, understanding operations of specific mechanical structuresand identifying problems or solutions to certain malfunctioningdevices, designs or structures. A mechanical engineer requiresknowledge of mathematical computations on dynamics, mechanics andfluids.

Thefirst literacy principles in mechanical engineering include readingand interpreting all mechanical, mathematical and physical principlesrequired to understand fundamentals of mechanical engineering. Someof the fundamental principles in mechanical engineering are metrics.Every engineer must understand the basic measurement parameters, forexample, in force, length, weight, speed, and other aspects in orderto differentiate one component from the other. For example, thepresence of the terms joules and Newton should automatically indicateto an engineering student the presence of energy and force.

Metricsand the International Systems of Units (SI Units) are some of thefundamental principles for an engineer. Every mechanical engineermust think and reason within the principles of measurements containedin the mechanical engineering course. Every mechanical engineeringstudent must possess relevant skills to read and interpret thedifferent signs and metric figures of measurement. This providesengineers with the required competence, precision needed whendesigning, and creating structures and machines. Reading skills arealso required in the analysis of designs and interpretation ofstructures according to the fundamental principles in mechanicalengineering. These basic principles include mechanics, mathematics,instrumentation and measurement, hydraulics, statics and dynamics.

Sinceinstrumentation, measurement and computations are some of the basicrequirements in mechanical engineering, they extend to basicprinciples of statics, mechanics and dynamics. Mechanical engineeringstudents are supposed to understand the concepts of bodies at restand those in motion. Students must understand when forces arerelevant in interpreting properties of bodies to understand whetherthey are in motion or at rest. In addition, failure to meet basicreading and writing skills are referred to as errors in engineering.When students make varying measurements, generate different resultsand deviate from the expected values, then errors are generated.These errors reflect the inability of students to exploit basicliteracy skills of maintaining accuracy and precision.

Studentsrequire high cognitive skills to understand the complex principlesresulting from basic skills. Cognitive skills involve possession ofbrain-based skills that interpret situations and combine memory,understanding and decision-taking skills. Memory is relevant to anengineering student in order to retain all basic principles, uponwhich all other complex formulas and concepts are based. For example,mathematical computations combine with instrumentation andmeasurement to understand the basic formulas, metrics andinternational systems of units.

Precisionis the closeness of measured values to each other. For example, inmultiple measurements, the closeness of measured value to each otheris described as precision. It demonstrates high level of consistencyand regular pattern of results. The literacy objective in measurementand instrumentation is to remain consistent and close to targets.Accuracy is the aspect of being close to a specified target. Althoughthe aspect of precision does not necessarily mean a student isaccurate, both objectives are relevant in attaining basic literacygoals. In addition, accuracy and precision are required in design andmathematical computations. These goals ensure that students caninterpret mathematical formulas and solve problems with aims ofrealizing accuracy and precision.

Staticsand dynamics serve as the fundamental literacy components found inmechanical engineering. In fact, statics and dynamics are the keycomponents required in understanding mechanical engineering. Staticsinvestigates the behavior of bodies at rest. The inactive behavior ofbodies does not necessarily indicate that a body is completelydormant. However, the unique characteristics of resting bodies helpin understanding the differences generated by movement. Dynamics isthe study of forces in motion. The combination and extension of theseprinciples leads to mechanics, hydraulics and mechanisms. Mechanicsis the study of properties’ behavior. Every physical body hasspecific reaction to internal and external forces. When reading anyengineering design, book, evaluating engines and other bodystructures, an engineering student must understand the basicprinciples, by nature of viewing the structures, and interpret theperceived structures and bodies according to the basic elementsstudied in class.

Thelast literacy requirement in mechanical engineering is application oftheory and basic principles to complex problems. After acquiringbasic principles of measurements and instrumentation, students aresubjected to mechanics, where they combine individual principles ofmeasurements to form complex formulas. The formulas serve as the mostimportant structures of mechanical engineering. When acquiring basicliteracy principles, students have to understand reasons for letterarrangement, rules and standards. Similarly, mechanical engineeringhas many rules and standards that define how formulas should beconstructed, how problems should be solved, and rules of eliminatingsome measurements in a problem.

Formulasdefine the process of solving mechanical problems. Formulas combinemeasurements using their SI units and placement of specific units inspecific locations (Feldmann &amp Feldmann, 2000). The applicationaspect of mechanical engineering is the ability to communicate aboutbody structures and engines in useful way while identifying anypropositions to change and identifying presence of any problem. Inaddition, the field requires students to make informed designs andstructures without making errors, which would mean incompetence andlack of basic skills. In addition, application of mechanicalengineering skills would require students to concentrate on a widerculture that extends beyond education. Students must understand theprinciples of engineering in order to interpret practical situationsaccording to basic standards and rules learned in class.

Mechanicalengineering extends beyond engineering to social culturalperspectives. For example, mechanical engineers must understand therequirements of different communities, regions and countries based oncultural standards and wants. Mechanical engineers must understandthe environmental, social and economic aspects when applyingengineering concepts in design and construction of mechanical bodies.Mechanical engineers must interpret mechanical failures fromtheoretical principles learnt in class and understand alternativesolutions to the problem. In addition, memory of basic principles,for example, formulas must be replaced with practical aspects ofmotion, statics and physical properties of bodies. This exposesstudents to broad knowledge of structures, how force acts on thebodies and the effects of movement and velocity on their shape andother physical properties.

Literacyskills in mechanical engineering incorporate basic measurement andinstrumentation skills, interpretation of different metrics andmeasurements to form formulas and application of the formulas tosolve problems. In addition, literacy skills involve combining basicprinciples of motion and statics to develop complex formulas thataddress major and minor problems in engines and machines. Withoutbasic skills of measurement and instrumentation, mechanical engineerswould not understand the goals of achieving precision and accuracy.In addition, measurement and instrumentation introduces students tobasic formulas, metrics and other standards of measurements. Throughthe basic standards of measurements, formulas are generated that helpin generating formulas required in solving mechanical problems,designing new structures and developing informed structures andengines. A student attains mechanical engineering competence if he orshe understands basic measurement and instrumentation techniques,which are requisites in developing formulas and complex principlesrequired in engineering.

InterviewQuestions with Engineer Audrey Peterson

Q.Which do you consider the basic literacy skills in your field?

A.Reading and writing skills are similar to instrumentation andmeasurement in engineering.

Q.Kindly elaborate on your answer

A.As a basic requirement, every engineer must understand thefundamental instrumentation and measurement techniques. Irrespectiveof whether students possess basic reading and writing skills,instrumentation and measurements exposes engineering students toprofessionalism, precision and accuracy.

Q.What are the goals of the basic literacy skills?

A.The goals in instrumentation and measurement are attaining accuracyand precision.


Avallone,E. A., Baumeister, T., &amp Sadegh, A. (2006). Marks`Standard Handbook For Mechanical Engineers (Standard Handbook forMechanical Engineers).New York, NY: Mcgraw-Hill Professional.

Feldmann,L., &amp Feldmann, J. (2000). Developing information literacy skillsin freshmen engineering technology students. In Frontiersin Education Conference, 2000. FIE 2000. 30th Annual(Vol. 2, pp. S2E-1). IEEE.