To bridge the gap between composition and professional communication studies, we should add multiculturalism to the widely accepted international perspective in professional communication instruction, thus transforming the classroom into a contact zone (Pratt). The practical necessity of intercultural communication in a global marketplace necessitates internationalization. The international perspective, accounting for the heterogeneity of the technical communication audience, focuses on audience analysis and leads us to encourage students to learn about the multiple, cultural layers of audience. A multicultural perspective, however, can teach students of professional communication about the complex relationship between language and ideology and the underlying forces that shape and reflect the ways we use language. Multiculturalism's critical component provides insights into the structures and ideologies of domination/subordination and provides students with the linguistic, intellectual, and moral tools for resisting fear and prejudices. Likewise, the international perspective in professional communication can inform issues of audience analysis in composition.
Because writers have to immediately place the information they want to record into one of these three types of information, they are being trained on how to write in a task-oriented, performance-based manner, via DITA. I am especially interested in this “training” for wiki authors and talked about the idea at our recent presentation.
This article discusses the rise of conservation writing as a new field of technical communication, and it offers pedagogical strategies for teaching conservation writing and building curricula. Conservation writing is an umbrella term for a range of writing about ecology, biology, the outdoors, and environmental policies and ethics. It places the natural world at the center of readers' attention, often viewing sustainability as a core value. A course or curriculum in this kind of writing would likely need to help students master a variety of genres, while providing a working knowledge in environmental law, ethics, and politics.
To teach students how to write for the workplace and other professional contexts, technical writing teachers often assign writing tasks that reflect real-life communication contexts, a teaching approach that is grounded in the field's contextualized understanding of genre. This article argues to fully embrace contextualized literacy and better teach workplace writing, technical writing teachers also need to contextualize how they assess student writing. To this end, this article examines some of workplaces' best assessment practices and critically integrates them into an introductory technical writing classroom through a method called student-centered assessment instruments. This method engages students, as workplaces engage employees, in the assessment process to identify local requirements for writing tasks. Aligned with theory and practice, this method is not only an effective classroom assessment method, but becomes an integrated part of students' genre-learning process within and beyond the classroom.
We have heard a great deal of talk in recent years about the growth of business and technical writing courses in English departments. But very little, if any, factual information exists on how much enrollments have grown and whether they are expected to grow in the near future. Furthermore, no study has attempted to assess the impact these relatively new, rapidly expanding courses are having and will continue to have on English departments and their faculty members.
At the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the World's Engineering Congress met and included special section, 'Division E, Engineering Education.' This division was the seed for The Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education, and one paper delivered in the section was 'Training of Students in Technical Literary Work,' evidencing early concern about engineers' education in technical writing. But concern alone did not solve the problem. Two decades later Edward D. Sabine, a terminal engineer, complained that most college graduated engineers could not even write a decent letter. And in the same year F. W. Springer, a professor of electrical engineering, spoke of the need for teaching 'engineering-English.' Fifty years ago Hale Sutherland, a professor of Civil Engineering, described how Case School of Applied Science had instituted a two-course, technical writing requirement to overcome 'the engineer's ancient weakness, his inability to speak and write effectively.' One approach to solving this problem has been cooperation. Seventy years ago C. W. Park wrote an article about the cooperative program at the University of Cincinnati, in which members of the Engineering and English Departments worked together to promote better writing; obviously the idea of teaming up is hardly new. Thirty years ago The Journal of Engineering Education published another description of a cooperative effort and just five years ago devoted an entire issue to technical writing. The need for teaching engineers to write and the difficulties in accomplishing the objective even cooperatively have been recognized for almost a century; we are still grappling with the problem.
The use of real materials in a technical writing class involves both advantages and drawbacks. Use of real materials makes the class relate well to the work environment, improves self-esteem, critical thinking, and student motivation. Drawbacks include the problem of finding materials, a lack of course continuity, a lessening of use of the class text, and legal implications. Overall, the use of real materials for classroom editing is recommended.
For my dissertation, I am analyzing technical writing textbooks from the early 1900s to the present to determine whether technical writing pedagogy has undergone or is undergoing a paradigm shift. When I began this study, my hypothesis was that technical writing pedagogy, like composition and rhetoric pedagogy, has shifted from the product orientation to the process orientation. Textbooks that are product oriented emphasize the study of examples or models, and textbooks that are process oriented emphasize the study of the writing process. Now that I have completed my study and am in the process of analyzing the results, my hypothesis is that technical writing pedagogy shifted from a product orientation to a combined product and process orientation.
After carefully studying the various areas that can be touched upon, we identified performance and the need of systematic Technical Writing education as the focus for our research. We prepared two surveys and then hosted them on SurveyMonkey.com for 50 days. The first survey was for Technical Writing Managers (Hiring Managers) and the second was for Technical Writers. The first survey was completed by 14 participants whereas the second survey was completed by 185 participants.
The article outlines the technical writing tutorial (TWT) that preceded an advanced ESL writing course for students of English Philology at the Jagiellonian University. Having assessed the English skills of those students at the end of the semester, we found a statistically significant increase in the performance of the students who had taken the TWT in comparison to the control group who spent the time of TWT doing more traditional exercises. This result indicates that technical writing books and journals should be considered as an important source of information for teachers of writing to ESL students.
Technical writing education in the community college is complicated by the need to serve multiple populations, including traditional college students, vocational/certificate students, and community businesses. At Heartland Community College (HCC), the Corporate Education Department serves the needs of businesses by providing workshops of varying lengths and content areas. At the same time, the Writing Program and the English Department serve the needs of traditional and vocational students through writing courses in composition, technical writing, and business writing. Since each department espouses different philosophies and is addressing the needs of a different audience, technical writing instruction varies across the College. Rarely does one course design affect the other, yet I believe that conversations between departments could help the College resolve some of the contradictions that accompany its dual mission.
The tools and techniques utilized in the technical communications profession are constantly improving and changing. Information Technology (IT) organizations devote the necessary resources to equip and train engineering, marketing, and sales teams, but often fail to do so for technical documentation teams. Many IT organizations tend to view documentation as an afterthought; however, consumers of IT products frequently base their purchasing decisions on the end user documentation's content, layout, and presentation. Documentation teams play a unique role in IT organizations as they help to build and create a public identity through end user manuals and the corporate website, as well as maintain intellectual knowledge through knowledge sharing and management. The technical communicator 'makes sense' of complex engineering specifications by creating user-friendly manuals for the layman. The practitioner who compiles and records this complex information is a valuable resource to any IT organization. Therefore, on-going training for technical documentation teams is essential to stay competitive in the fast-paced technical market. Technical communicators in IT organizations who only write end user manuals are becoming a rarity. Research indicates a marked trend toward technical writers in multiple roles and varied responsibilities that include web design and development, and business systems analysis functions. Although these added roles and responsibilities require training on some of the newer software tools and more complex programming tools, technical communicators are experiencing difficulty keeping pace with these tools. This article discusses technical documentation teams in IT organizations and provides an on-going training assessment to help technical documentation managers identify their team's strengths and weaknesses. In addition, measures and results from a study conducted at eight IT organizations, are provided to show the effect of how the integration of on-going training for documentation teams enhances individual competency and improves team performance.
The service curricula in this survey include institution-wide general education courses, English courses required in addition to institution-wide general education courses for preprofessional students (those pursuing four-year or longer non-arts and sciences degrees), and other specialized preprofessional English courses, such as technical writing.
The future of the English curriculum is being argued and discussed in academic settings across the country. Students, more and more, seek courses of study that will lead directly to jobs. The buzzword is 'relevance.' The bottom line is 'big bucks.'
Rensselaer’s Technical Writers' Institute, the first program of its kind, had a profound impact on technical communication. It enabled technical communicators without formal education in the field to gain important knowledge, provided a forum for communicators from different industries to meet in order to solve mutual problems, played a key role in defining the field and its needs, encouraged recruitment (including the hiring of more women), promoted professional societies and formal degree programs, and seriously affected industry training programs by enabling them to use institute teaching materials. Knowledge gained through the Technical Writers' Institute enabled Rensselaer to develop many other innovations.
In an advanced technical and professional writing course, a pair of in-class exercises integrates the teaching of teamwork with other class topics of project management and observation-based research. The first exercise introduces teamwork in a positive way, by raising awareness of strategies for solving problems successfully. The second exercise follows up on the first, focusing on assessment of problem-solving teamwork. The pair of exercises is memorable and effective, showing students in an engaging, thought-provoking way that they have control and responsibility for the success of their teamwork. The materials for conducting the exercises, provided here, encourage reflection and discussion.
If you wish to start an undergraduate professional and technical writing program at a small liberal arts college, you will find good arguments for your project in the educational writings of Sir Francis Bacon. Unlike other Renaissance Humanists, Bacon located the New Learning (what we now call the humanities) within the related contexts of scientific discovery and invention and professional training and development. His treatise, The Advancement of Learning, proposes to draw knowledge from and apply knowledge to the natural and social world. Bacon's curricular ideas can benefit emerging PTW programs in the humanities in three ways: They make a convincing apologia for most English departments and writing programs, wed humanistic education to public service, and provide a rich but practical theoretical framework for program development and administration.
Perhaps Giambattista Vico was only half right when he proposed his cyclical theory of history. Besides returning to the same key ideas, civilizations tend to suffer from the same nagging headaches. This is equally true, on a smaller scale, of academic disciplines. They are defined less by their innovations than by their recurring problems and dilemmas. This paradox certainly applies to professional and technical writing. At the dawn of the new millennium, our discipline faces the same vexing questions it confronted fifty years ago: Are we primarily practitioners and consultants or scholars and teachers? Do we train or educate students? Should we situate our practice in the classroom or the workplace? Is our subject closer to rhetoric and communications or the natural and social sciences?
I enjoy creating content. I like to take words and arrange them to convey ideas, paint pictures, spur thought, and give guidance. I like thinking about what arrangement of the words will bring the best impact. I write not necessarily because the world turns on ideas or because information is a buyable product, but because words have a lasting effect on people.
How can we know something that is totally unfamiliar to us, such that we’ve never experienced or conceptualized it in the least degree before? This question is more philosophical than practical, but it does play a part in our role as technical writers.
The service course is undergoing another change in its role in the Technical Communication program. Over the years, the service course has evolved from a way of providing students with mastery of genre and style to a way of introducing students to their role as communicators in the rhetorical situation. The Web drives the new role evolving out of this solid past. The service course now provides students with a basis for independent creation. Programs must fill four key needs for students entering the job market. Students must: learn to learn; master the processes involved in creating information; learn applications quickly and graduate having mastered several; and understand information design.
Because of accreditation, budget, and accountability pressures at the institutional and program levels, technical and professional communication faculty are more than ever involved in assessment-based activities. Using assessment to identify a program's strengths and weaknesses allows faculty to work toward continuous improvement based on their articulation of learning and behavioral goals and outcomes for their graduates. This article describes the processes of program assessment based on pedagogical goals, pointing out options and opportunities that will lead to a meaningful and manageable experience for technical communication faculty, and concludes with a view of how the larger academic body of technical communication programs can benefit from such work. As ATTW members take a careful look at the state of the profession from the academic perspective, we can use assessment to further direct our programs to meet professional expectations and, far more importantly, to help us meet the needs of the well-educated technical communicator.
At last year’s STC corlference in Seattle, Dr. Donald Norman spoke about the technical writing community becoming an integral part qf the design/development team. The HCI certificate program qfered through Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute @PI,) provides information and teaches skills that enable the technical communicator to become a valuable part of that team. This paper discusses my experience incorporating what I learned in the HCI class on a work project.