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Returning to an Industry-informed Technical Writing and Communication Course Design

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

College-Industry Partnerships Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

College Industry Partnerships

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Paper Authors


Alyson Grace Eggleston The Citadel

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Alyson G. Eggleston is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Fine Arts, and Communications at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, where she teaches STEM-focused technical writing and communication, writing-intensive courses for international students, and linguistics. She received her PhD from Purdue University in Linguistics, and she has a BA and MA in English with concentrations in TESOL and writing pedagogy from Youngstown State University. Her research and teaching interests are in technical and scientific writing pedagogy and the interaction of language and cognition. She is a member of Sigma Xi and ASEE.

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Robert J. Rabb P.E. The Citadel

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Robert Rabb is an associate professor and the Mechanical Engineering Program Director at The Citadel. He previously taught mechanical engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Military Academy and his M.S.E. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His research and teaching interests are in mechatronics, regenerative power, and multidisciplinary engineering.

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At inception, technical writing course design was informed by military and industry needs. Changing student demographics during the 20th century, coupled with a spate of retirements of military- and industry-connected technical writing instructors, resulted in deep changes to both technical writing as a field and the way it is taught. These reverberations continue in present day technical writing classrooms. Current government and industry stakeholders are aware that technical and engineering employees could benefit from continuing education in technical writing. Many government agencies and industries have realized that they may have a superior product or service, but they miss opportunities because their grant or proposal writers conveyed improper or inadequate information. And while the conventional focus on rhetorical positioning in technical writing courses can result in more careful student writers, this paper calls for a return to producing effective authentic documents—those written work products that demonstrate awareness of known and unknown readers, document project management, and are written to make reading easy. Moreover, these authentic documents should be situational, and produced in response to real project demands, as opposed to written products that exclusively attempt to imagine appropriate responses to hypothetical situations.

Realizing this need, this paper identifies key pathways for developing and strengthening ties between academic institutions and industry stakeholders that have been successful at the [Institution]. Using student success indicators in a technical writing and communication class designed for engineering students, quantitative and qualitative results from two case studies are presented. Results are extracted from pre- and post-testing of student performance indicators at the [Institution], as well as from surveys to gauge student perceptions of performance and confidence. The first case study presents evidence of student performance gains observed after completion of a device repair guide project, produced for iFixit, a consumer-focused device repair company, to meet the needs of real users. The second case study presents evidence of student performance gains after implementing a condensed version of an industry-requested workshop on proposal writing. This paper makes recommendations for technical writing course design and assessment, as well as the demonstrated merits of building industry-informed projects in the technical writing classroom, putting rhetoric in action.

Eggleston, A. G., & Rabb, R. J. (2019, June), Returning to an Industry-informed Technical Writing and Communication Course Design Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33246

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