Joel Kline presentation

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My Society of Technical Communication presentation in summer 2008 on my New Zealand research about Information Design practitioners.

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  • As many of you know, I am in New Zealand for the spring semester at the University of Waikato, in Hamilton, NZ. I decided to study technical communicators in NZ with respect to knowledge transfer between the academic and practitioner communities. I chose to start with a survey and then conduct personal interviews.
  • Literature on NZ TC is sparse and literature on knowledge transfer between academia and industry is extensive! The research on knowledge transfer includes subjects like technology transfer, economics of university research, patents/copyright/licensing, academic entrepreneurship, Technology Transfer Offices (TTO), and more. I located whatever research I could find on TC in NZ and then narrowed down the knowledge transfer literature to studies and research that fit appropriately with TC. Research in the organizational sciences and information sciences can be extended to TC.
  • This is a very pragmatic topic that initially involves basic transfer mechanisms and perceptions about the relationship between two communities (specifically to share information). Since this research is a pilot for some dissertation research, I wanted to perform the research before I actually applied any theory (Dr. Barker and I have been discussing Actor-Network theory as part of the act of information exchange). Consequently, I feel that my methodology is to make some assumptions to guide the research, use the collected data to frame the subject, and identify the pragmatic obstacles to information exchange. By discovering these elements I can then use the results to search for theory or models of suitable information exchange.
  • Performed an online survey and then used volunteers from the survey to conduct personal interviews. In Mirel and Spilka’s book “Reshaping Technical Communication, New Directions and Challenges for the 21 st Century”, the authors address the subject of revising the relationship between industry and academia. They suggest several metaphors for describing the goals of industry and academic partnership but agree that the issue is so complex it might not be symbolized through a simple metaphor. I posed the metaphors to respondents to see if there was any agreement.
  • Here are some qualitative results in terms of the subject matter:
  • What you’re viewing is a stacked chart which depicts how useful practitioners find different sources of knowledge. If you scan across the x axis you can read the sources of knowledge (colleagues, academic periodicals, etc). Imagine a vertical line directly above each resource and follow that line through the colors. The more of one color the more responses for that choice. Choices (colors) start at zero on y axis and move to the top in this order Very Useful (blue), Useful (Magenta), Neutral (Tan), Rarely Useful (Green), or Never Useful (Purple). Look at colleagues. It has a lot of blue (very useful) and a lot of purple (useful). This indicates a large number of respondents find colleagues a useful source of information. Now look at Academic Periodicals or Interaction with Academic Professors…
  • Here is an oversimplified discussion of the results of the survey and initial results from the interviews.
  • Joel Kline presentation

    1. 1. Knowledge Transfer between Practitioners and Academics in New Zealand. Joel A. Kline Associate Professor of Business and Digital Communications Lebanon Valley College June 4, 2008
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>What I did… </li></ul><ul><li>Why the Conversation? </li></ul><ul><li>Literature Review </li></ul><ul><li>What did I research? </li></ul><ul><li>Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Quantitative Results </li></ul><ul><li>Qualitative Results </li></ul><ul><li>Metaphorically Speaking </li></ul><ul><li>Audience Engagement </li></ul>
    3. 3. What I did… <ul><li>Researched Technical Communication practitioners in New Zealand (NZ) </li></ul><ul><li>Focused on the transfer of knowledge between academic and practitioner communities </li></ul><ul><li>Pilot study for future research </li></ul><ul><li>Important to the conversation between the communities </li></ul>
    4. 4. Why NZ? <ul><li>Much smaller overall population </li></ul><ul><li>A sample size of about a 100 would be much more representative than in US </li></ul><ul><li>Stratification of academic institutions between research Universities and applied Institutes </li></ul><ul><li>Very little research has been done on the TC community – accommodating subjects </li></ul><ul><li>I was there… </li></ul>
    5. 5. Why the Conversation? <ul><li>Mirel and Spilka note “…professionals from both worlds contribute to the substance and identity that technical communicators hold dear…” </li></ul><ul><li>Many TC professors have never practiced TC (or taken coursework in TC) </li></ul><ul><li>To build our own BOK </li></ul><ul><li>Who cites us? </li></ul><ul><li>Excess vs. Incest </li></ul>
    6. 6. External A/I Conversation <ul><li>“ Moving outside of the organizational sciences, Louis, Blumenthal, Gluck, and Stoto (1989) and Cohen and coauthors (1998) reported that the most successful academic researchers in the biological and physical sciences also tend to have the highest levels of interaction with practitioners… </li></ul><ul><li>… Similarly, Pelz and Andrews (1976) found that corporate researchers who spent at least part of their time working on assigned (rather than self-chosen) problems and who took boundary-spanning roles (in management, for example) in addition to conducting research were also the most productive... </li></ul><ul><li>… Thus, a preponderance of the evidence suggests that collaborations between researchers and practitioners increase research productivity and, in some cases, quality as well.” </li></ul><ul><li>Rynes, Bartunek, et al. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Literature Review <ul><li>Literature is non-existent on the 2 communities in NZ </li></ul><ul><li>Limited research on TC knowledge transfer (Palmer and Killingsworth, Mirel and Spilka, Windsor) </li></ul><ul><li>Extended organizational sciences research on the gap between communities from Beyer & Trice (also Rynes, Bartunek, et al) </li></ul>
    8. 8. My WhoGARA Moment <ul><li>Began as a quantitative and qualitative study of TC practitioners in NZ </li></ul><ul><li>Assumed the exchange of information between the communities is valuable </li></ul><ul><li>That lasted until one practitioner asked “why should I care what academic researchers are doing?” </li></ul>
    9. 9. Methods – Survey & Interviews <ul><li>Online survey </li></ul><ul><li>Recruited members of Technical Communicators Assoc. of NZ (TCANZ) </li></ul><ul><li>Interview Sample size of 90 </li></ul><ul><li>Questions: Demographics, Knowledge Transfer, Metaphor </li></ul><ul><li>25 Qualitative Interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Seek more detail on why the two communities don’t exchange information </li></ul><ul><li>Has led to insight on mechanisms of transfer (i.e. alumni events) </li></ul><ul><li>End interview with questions about whether an online or virtual solution could improve the exchange of information </li></ul>
    10. 10. A/I Interaction Locus Model Academia Industry Face-to-Face Interaction Publications Virtual Interaction Figure 1: Academic/Industry Interaction Locus Model
    11. 11. Sample Quantitative Results <ul><li>Most common answer for virtual meeting place between communities (blogs, wikis, etc) was “None of These” (43%) </li></ul><ul><li>Highest scoring academic journal read by practitioners was Technical Communication with only 28% </li></ul><ul><li>Practitioners rated academic sources of knowledge as the lowest </li></ul>
    12. 12. Virtual Intersection between A/I
    13. 13. Publications
    14. 14. Sources of Knowledge
    15. 15. Metaphorically Speaking 20.8% 16 My own metaphor (enter below) 13.0% 10 Finding Unity in Difference 29.9% 23 Meeting in Overlapping Spaces 20.8% 16 Narrowing Gaps and Differences 15.6% 12 Building Bridges
    16. 16. Locations Preferred by Industry Each Less than 10% Teaching Papers (courses) Serving on Advisory Board Mentoring College Students Academic Consultants in your Workplace 10.8 % None of these 17.5% Seminars 20.1% Membership Organizations 22.2% Conferences Practitioners Prefer Location
    17. 17. Qualitative Results <ul><li>Interviews conducted over the telephone </li></ul><ul><li>All practitioners agreed that good relationships with the academic community was important </li></ul><ul><li>Most felt that there was a significant disconnect, especially with the research universities </li></ul><ul><li>Asked about metaphors from Mirel and Spilka book Reshaping Technical Communication for the 21 st Century… </li></ul>
    18. 18. Reward Systems <ul><li>“ Practitioners are bottom line oriented. This doesn’t encourage innovation. Academics perform research that is innovative” Interviewee #1 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sometimes it seems like academics get rewarded more easily than practitioners. And the rewards are not appropriate. Maybe it’s a wee bit of jealousy between practitioners and academics.” </li></ul><ul><li> Interviewee #2 </li></ul>
    19. 19. Briefly Characterize… <ul><li>“ Hmm. I suppose there is some, but not a lot of communication between the two camps.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I would say my first thought is that there is none. But then I would say that there must be, surely teachers would want to go and socialize with other Tech Comm. people, especially the ones that are out there practicing it. But, as far as I know, except for say TCANZ, there is no interaction. I’ve certainly never interacted with an academic.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’m not sure if it is all that tight. “ </li></ul>
    20. 20. A Typical Qualitative Quote <ul><li>“I have to admit I have no contacts to academics at the moment, personally. And it’s just, you never thought of it actually. I think it’s an important thing to have and it would make life easier. I think as a technical writer, I get my information mostly from management within the company. It would be fruitful to connect to academics outside this – beyond the company level.” </li></ul>
    21. 21. Self-made Metaphors (direct quotes) <ul><li>Joining theory and practice </li></ul><ul><li>Binding agent in cement/plaster </li></ul><ul><li>Walk AND Talk </li></ul><ul><li>Making the usable out of the incomprehensible </li></ul><ul><li>Living together </li></ul><ul><li>Walk in each other's shoes </li></ul><ul><li>Research-based practice </li></ul><ul><li>Transitions: from the theory to the practice </li></ul><ul><li>I LOATHE this kind of thing </li></ul><ul><li>Communities of Practice (CoP), term from Organisational Development </li></ul><ul><li>Providing Resource </li></ul><ul><li>twin pillars supporting business </li></ul><ul><li>working together </li></ul><ul><li>Ships in the night </li></ul><ul><li>Marriage </li></ul><ul><li>Inhabiting seperate [sic] planets </li></ul>
    22. 22. Conclusions <ul><li>The practitioner community does not read much of what is written by the academic community in NZ </li></ul><ul><li>NZ practitioners do not believe the academic community is a resource for their work </li></ul><ul><li>The use of online or virtual communities for exchanging information between the academic and practitioner communities is not productive </li></ul>
    23. 23. What Can We Do? <ul><li>Knowledge portal project </li></ul><ul><li>A/I communication initiatives </li></ul><ul><li>Computer Mediated Platform </li></ul><ul><li>Acquire more data </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize then overcome the obstacles a intersections: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Physical </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Virtual </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publications </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Work towards an integrated model and set of best practices </li></ul><ul><li>Build a case for strong A/I community interaction </li></ul>
    24. 24. Bibliography <ul><li>Beyer, J. M., & Trice, H. M. (1982). “The utilization process: A conceptual framework and synthesis of empirical findings.” Administrative Science Quarterly , 27. 591-622. </li></ul><ul><li>Palmer, J. and Killingsworth, M.J. (2002). Research and Consulting in Technical Communication. Technical Communications Quarterly 11.4. 389-409 </li></ul><ul><li>Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach (2nd Ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Mirel, B. and Spilka, R., Eds.(2002). Reshaping Technical Communication. New Directions and Challenges for the 21 st Century. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Reynolds, A. (2002). “Ashes or Phoenix? Technical Communication or Information Design?” STC 2002 Conference Proceedings. Retrieved online from: http://www.stc.org/confproceed/2002/PDFs/STC49-00002.pdf </li></ul><ul><li>Rynes, S.L., Bartunek, J.M., & Daft, R. (2001) “Across the great divide: knowledge creation and transfer between practitioners and academics.” Academy of Management Journal , 44(2). 340-355. </li></ul>
    25. 25. Questions/Feedback [email_address]

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