Innovative Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication

By Tracy Bridgeford; Karla Saari Kitalong et al. | Go to book overview

5
TECHNICAL WRITING, SERVICE
LEARNING, AND A REARTICULATION
OF RESEARCH, TEACHING, AND
SERVICE

Jeffrey T. Grabill

Tensions among research, teaching, and service are real, and they are unproductive when they limit the type of work valued by the university (see Sosnoski 1994). There have been some notable attempts to rethink the work of the university and establish new ways to value a range of faculty initiatives that don’t fit into the hierarchy of research, teaching, and service (for example, Boyer 1997). One of the more interesting attempts is the 1996 report by the MLA Commission on Professional Service, which takes as one of its starting places the imbalance among research, teaching, and service. The commission notes that service in particular is almost completely ignored or seen as an activity lacking “substantive idea content and significance” (171). There is nothing new either in the university’s hierarchy of values or in the denigration of service. Yet this taxonomy of faculty work should be disconcerting to those of us who believe that a university must have long-term commitments to serve the community in which it is situated. But perhaps more problematic is the view of service as an intellectual wasteland.

My most general concern in this chapter is this view of service as lacking substance and significance. (I will focus, however, on community service learning rather than departmental or university service.) To be sure, the MLA Commission on Professional Service offers an intriguing rearticulation of research, teaching, and service into “intellectual work” and “academic and professional citizenship,” with research, teaching, and service recast as sites of activity that can be found in both categories. I am interested in a tighter refiguring of these sites of activity for two reasons. The first is more general and is based on an argument that “service” is actually an epistemologically productive site of activity. It is this issue that serves as a framework for the chapter. My second reason for

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