Nonacademic Writing: Social Theory and Technology

By Ann Hill Duin; Craig J. Hansen | Go to book overview

3
Nonacademic Writing Into the 21st Century: Achieving and Sustaining Relevance in Research and Curricula

Elizabeth Tebeaux Texas A&M University

As the chapters in this book suggest, theory in nonacademic discourse is steadily developing connections with allied fields. These chapters help fulfill calls by scholars such as Anderson ( 1980), Brockmann ( 1980), Ewing ( 1983), Gieselman ( 1980), and Moran ( 1985) for the development of a theoretical, research-based pedagogy and a resulting, theoretically grounded disciplinary direction for nonacademic discourse. The unstated rationale for these first calls for intellectual depth was clear: Technical and business communication, to be considered a legitimate field of study, needed to move away from its skills image; articulate a theory, a research methodology, and an alliance with well-established respected liberal arts and social science fields; and show that our intellectual goals were commensurate to and as academically worthy as theirs.

As Thralls and Blyler's ( 1993a, 1993b) recent work in social perspectives has shown, a host of studies has provided a social theory for use in the classroom. But as we enter the closing years of this century, perhaps we need to recall who we are, the rationale for what we do, and goals that evolve from our identity. Herndl correctly described the uneasiness between theory and classroom practice, particularly disparities between ethnographic theory and pedagogy. Although Herndl was correct in recognizing that technical communication pedagogy is driven by nonacademic forces, I would further argue that the current climate of academic accountability, rapid technological change, and decreasing literacy give us major research and teaching challenges. Technical communication is unique in the field of rhetoric: It helps students prepare for the transition from the academy to the world of work.

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