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Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
Teaching Technical Communication
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Teaching Technical Communication

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  • 1. Teaching Technical Communication See Central Works readings by Rutter and Connors
  • 2. Overview <ul><li>Theory vs. Practice Debate </li></ul><ul><li>TC Teaching Influenced by Origins in Engineering Education </li></ul>
  • 3. Teaching Technical Communication <ul><li>Technical communication theorists have positioned themselves within the larger framework of rhetorical studies, which have been dominated by </li></ul><ul><li>Specialists in speech communication </li></ul><ul><li>Scholars who focus on literary texts </li></ul>
  • 4. TC Theory: Theory/Practice Debate <ul><li>Push-pull between </li></ul><ul><li>Pragmatics: special skills, deadlines, computers </li></ul><ul><li>Theory: knowledge that transcends pragmatics and guides choices </li></ul><ul><li>Solution -> Praxis: practice informed by theory </li></ul>
  • 5. TC Theory: Theory/Practice Debate <ul><li>TC is grounded in the liberal arts and rhetoric where knowing and being are valued more than willing and doing . </li></ul><ul><li>John Henry Newman, a liberal education “teaches . . . to value ideas more than facts and systems” (“On Liberal Education,” 1852, qtd. Rutter 24) </li></ul><ul><li>Theory versus practice is a false dichotomy: practice done right (as praxis) simply applies theory “to particular classes of problems” (adapting T.H. Huxley on the relation of pure science to applied science, qtd. Rutter 24). </li></ul>
  • 6. TC Theory: Theory/Practice Debate <ul><li>Rhetoricians like Rutter argue as follows: </li></ul><ul><li>Positivism only works in closed systems. </li></ul><ul><li>Communication is not a closed system. It is dynamic because it involves people. </li></ul>
  • 7. TC Theory: Theory/Practice Debate <ul><li>Metaphors for views of reality: </li></ul><ul><li>positivist – sees windows on reality </li></ul><ul><li>postmodernist – sees versions of reality </li></ul><ul><li>If writers “create versions of reality” (not windows on reality), then “technical communication must be fundamentally rhetorical: it builds a case that reality is one way and not some other” (Rutter 28). </li></ul>
  • 8. Teaching: TC a New Field <ul><li>Technical communication is a much newer discipline than speech communication and literary studies </li></ul><ul><li>Technical writing courses date from the early 1900s (first textbook 1908) </li></ul><ul><li>Technical writing as a profession came of age after World War II (first professional organizations founded 1953) </li></ul>
  • 9. Teaching: TC and Engineering <ul><li>Teaching technical writing begins with teaching engineers to write. </li></ul><ul><li>Morrill Act (U.S. 1862) – establishes “land-grant” colleges to teach agriculture and engineering </li></ul><ul><li>Technical Instruction Act (U.K. 1881) – funding for technical education </li></ul>
  • 10. Teaching TC: Historical Overview <ul><li>Connors organizes historically, showing a move from * training engineers to write to * training professional writers </li></ul><ul><li>The “ product vs. process ” debate underlies all discussion of writing programs </li></ul><ul><li>The major trend is growth in academic programs and professional organizations = “ professionalization” </li></ul>
  • 11. Teaching TC: Historical Overview <ul><li>Before WWII - focus on training engineers to write </li></ul><ul><li>After WWII - focus on training professional writers to write for engineers </li></ul><ul><li>Since 1980s - computer industry has changed the face of technical communication </li></ul>
  • 12. Teaching TC: Before WWII <ul><li>Late 1800s - “Engineering English” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1894 Society for Promotion of Engineering Education (SPEE); adds English committee 1905 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1899 U Michigan forms an English Dept. within the Engineering school </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Early 1900s - First Textbooks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1908, Rickard, A Guide to Technical Writing (emphasizes usage) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1911 Earle (“father” of teaching TC), The Theory and Practice of Technical Writing , the first to have “rhetorical” emphasis (Souther’s term) </li></ul></ul>
  • 13. Teaching TC: Before WWII <ul><ul><ul><li>By the 1920s </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>64% of engineering schools require a technical writing course </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1938 dissertation “A Study of Courses in Technical Writing” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Studied 117 schools, texts, and syllabi </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Found “forms approach dominant” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Still the only study of its kind; done at Peabody in Nashville </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  • 14. Teaching TC: Before WWII <ul><ul><li>Textbooks focus on either Process or Product: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Process/Rhetorical Approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Samuel Chandler Earle’s Theory and Practice of Technical Writing (1911) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Product/Language Approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>S.A. Harbarger’s English for Engineers (1923) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both approaches are influential throughout the century . </li></ul></ul>
  • 15. Teaching TC: Product vs. Process <ul><ul><ul><li>“ Product” focus is seen as anti-rhetorical, filling in boxes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Any researcher emphasizing the “situatedness” of writing (especially social context) is on the process side </li></ul></ul></ul>
  • 16. Teaching TC: Process vs. Product Dates back to 1923 textbook by Harbarger Dates back to 1940 textbook by Nelson Writer-based; results focused (hence “language”) Reader-based; audience focused (hence “rhetorical”) Product Process
  • 17. Teaching TC: After WWII <ul><ul><li>Textbooks include both process & product, a “hybrid” approach: Houp & Pearsall (1968) the first. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasizes audience analysis and rhetoric (process) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Discusses types of proposals and reports (product) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Begins shift toward professionalization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>World War II created a demand for trained technical writers to produce manuals for planes and guns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sputnik launch in 1957 led to a shortage of technical writers and hence pay increases and prestige </li></ul></ul>
  • 18. Teaching TC: Professionalization <ul><li>Academic programs and professional organizations grew in tandem. </li></ul><ul><li>Industry </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1953 - two professional organizations founded (STW, ATWE)--after various mergers, becomes Society for Technical Communication (STC) in 1971. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2004 - STC had over 20,000 members. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Academe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1958 - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offers the first master’s degree in technical and scientific writing (now offers Ph.D.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2006 - 105 colleges and universities in 7 countries offer programs leading to a major or minor in technical communication. See list at http://www.uah.edu/502/Academic_Programs.htm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>At 7 U.S universities, students may pursue a Ph.D. in technical communication or professional writing (current May 2006). Many other English Ph.D. programs offer the option to concentrate in technical or professional writing. </li></ul></ul>
  • 19. Teaching TC: Professionalization <ul><ul><li>1970s - academic journals and meetings begin to provide the scholarly focus that will professionalize the teaching of technical writing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1970 JTWC founded (still the major research journal) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1973 ATTW founded ( TWT , later TCQ, its journal) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1976 first MLA session on technical writing </li></ul></ul>
  • 20. Works Cited <ul><li>Charney, Davida. “Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Research.” Research in Technical Communication . Ed. Laura J. Gurak and Mary M. Lay. Praeger, 2002. </li></ul><ul><li>Connors, Robert. “The Rise of Technical Writing Instruction in America.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 12.4 (1982): 329-52. Rpt. Central Works , 3-19. </li></ul><ul><li>Goubil-Gambrel, Patricia. “A Practitioner’s Guide to Research Methods.” Technical Communication  39. 4 (1992): 582-93. </li></ul><ul><li>North, Stephen. The Making of Knowledge in Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1987. </li></ul><ul><li>Ornatowski, Cezar M. “Technical Communication and Rhetoric.” Foundations for Teaching Technical Communication . Ed. Katherine Staples and Cezar Ornatowski. Greenwich, CT: Ablex, 1997. 31-51. </li></ul><ul><li>Rude, Carolyn D. “The Report for Decision Making: Genre and Inquiry.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 9.2(1995):170-205. Rpt. Central Works , 70-90. </li></ul><ul><li>Rutter, Russell. “History, Rhetoric, and Humanism: Toward a More Comprehensive Definition of Technical Communication.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 21.2 (1991): 133-53. Rpt. Central Works, 20-34. </li></ul>

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