Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication

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Programmatic Perspectives publishes articles related to programmatic issues related to technical communication. ISSN 2326-1412


Programmatic Perspectives is currently in an editorial transition period and is not accepting submissions at this time (January through May 2015).

Current Issue

Volume 7 Issue 2 (Fall 2015)

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Front matter is included with the complete issue version, which also includes the journal's cover, information about the editorial offices' locations, copyright information, list of reviewers, table of contents, and articles.


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From the Editors

Issue Preview

Tracy Bridgeford, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Kirk St. Amant, East Carolina University

This issue preview welcomes the community to Programmatic Perspectives. The editors preview articles and invite the community action. Volume 7.2 contains special commentary on a recurring theme in this issue: femenist perspectives.



Extending Participatory Assessment to STEM, Community, and Industry Stakeholders: Rhetorical Work and Ethical Considerations

Kyle P. Vealey, Purdue University

Charlotte Hyde, Purdue University

Abstract. This article argues that extending the scope of participatory program assessment to include external stakeholders, such as the STEM disciplines, community organizations, and industry representatives, requires an understanding of program assessment as complex rhetorical work. In doing so, the focus of participatory program assessment is not only on identifying learning objectives and measuring whether or not those outcomes are achieved by students but also on ways of rhetorically crafting programmatic goals that are of value to a variety of stakeholders in a variety of institutional contexts. Such rhetorical work calls for careful consideration of how professional writing programs solicit, value, and make use of feedback from different stakeholders. We offer one possible approach in the form of a question-based heuristic designed to sustain reflection on the ethics of engaging external stakeholders throughout the participatory assessment process.

Keywords. participatory program assessment, STEM, community, industry, ethics


Developing Learning Outcomes in Professional Writing and Technical Communication Programs: Obstacles, Benefits, and Potential for Graduate Program Improvement

Brett H. Say, Michigan State University

Abstract. This article seeks to provide additional insight into the value of outcomes-based assessment in professional writing and technical communication programs, particularly at the graduate level, and show how adoption of outcomes-based assessment can address disciplinary topics of concern ranging from professionalization to development of a standard body of knowledge. The article explores commonly cited obstacles for the adoption of an outcomes-based assessment model within professional writing and technical communication programs and describes perceived benefits and potential approaches for program implementation. Focusing on the need for increased knowledge at the graduate program level, this article aims to highlight a specific gap in the literature and provoke future discussion among program administrators who have noted the pedagogical differences between undergraduate and graduate education.

Keywords. outcomes, graduate education, program assessment, body of knowledge, professional writing, technical communication


Departmental Positioning of Technical and Professional Communication

Nick Hall, East Carolina University

Abstract. In this article, I examine the topic of departmental location of technical and professional communication programs and the effects of those varied locations on programs by focusing on the question: Where should technical and professional communication be positioned departmentally? In focusing on this question, I look at the historical formation of writing programs at universities before examining academic literature that addresses concerns and tensions with various departmental arrangements, starting with Carolyn Miller’s influential “A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing.” Examining the literature exposes common threads of concern among authors, despite their departmental leanings, including concerns over support, identity, practicality, and research. Finally, I examine the literature as a whole and offer ideas for areas that warrant additional research in hopes of sparking more informed debate on the question of placement of technical and professional communication programs, which has been posed through much of the discipline’s history.

Keywords. departmental location, departmental positioning, program location, departmental arrangement, program support, program efficacy, disciplinary identity, research support, practicality


Participatory Design Research for Curriculum Development of Graduate Programs for Workplace Professionals

Deb Balzhiser, Texas State University

Paul Sawyer, Southeastern Louisiana University

Shen Womack-Smith, Ink Farm

J A Smith, Ink Farm

Abstract. The designer-researchers in this case study used participatory design research to investigate developing two interdisciplinary master’s degree programs tailored for workplace professionals in professional writing, media journalism, and public relations. Administrators asked faculty to develop programs that moved costs associated with education onto students and that increased graduate enrollment and improved graduate retention. This article shares details 16 workplace professionals gave during four focus groups and on a questionnaire. This article encourages participatory design for curriculum development of graduate degrees and provides a potential place for others to begin such research-design by sharing the apparatus and reflections upon them.

Keywords. workplace professional, curriculum development, master’s degrees, graduate degrees, interdisciplinary degree, professional writing, media journalism, public relations, distance education, professional writing, technical communication, flexible learning, user-centered design, participatory design


Building Usability and User-Experience Testing Facilities in Professional and Technical Communication Programs

Tharon W. Howard, Clemson University

Abstract. In this retrospective, I look back over 20 years of experience designing, building, and maintaining usability testing and user experience research facilities. I identify five major areas that have significantly impacted the designs he has created which he labels: 1) Methodological Myopia, 2) Cost Recovery and Mission Drift, 3) Methodological Stifling, 4) Hand-To-Mouth Staffing, 5) and Mission Critical Non-Disclosure Agreements. Because of the negative impacts these five areas have on technical communication programs and their usability testing facilities, I ultimately argue that 21st-Century facilities avoid the classic usability testing design with two rooms divided by one-way mirrors. I argue instead for spaces designed for methodological flexibility such as a large collaboration space surrounded by smaller studios and provide specific guidance to help technical program administrators create sustainable and pedagogically sound usability and user experience testing facilities.

Keywords. usability testing lab, user experience design, think-aloud protocol analysis, eye-tracking, facility design


Program Showcases

Technical Communication at the University of Central Florida

Dan Jones, University of Central Florida

Abstract. This article traces the history, ongoing development, and successes of our undergraduate and graduate technical communication programs at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. I focus on our particular strengths, including our well-established place at a university classified by Carnegie as having “very high research activity,” our long-standing ties to our local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, our strong relationship with local industry, our advantageous location for job placement, and a faculty with wide-ranging research interests and decades of teaching experience. After describing the minor we started in the fall of 1981 with fewer than a dozen students and the BA program we started in the fall of 1984 with not many more, I review how we found successful ways to promote our programs to enlist further support from higher administration. Then I discuss the MA program we began offering in the fall of 1992 and the challenges we encountered in converting this program into an online one beginning in the fall of 2008. I also review the role our faculty play in the Texts and Technology doctoral program hosted in our College of Arts and Humanities. I cover some key lessons learned concerning open communication, advance planning, faculty support for online teaching, support for our students’ professional development, and our flexible approach to program administration. I conclude by providing some data on the salaries and job titles of selected students among the now hundreds of our graduates.

Keywords. technical communication programs, program administration, administrative challenges, online programs, teaching online


A New Major in the Shadow of the Past: The Professional Writing Track at Oakland University

Felicia Chong, Oakland University

Jim Nugent, Oakland University

Abstract. In this article, we offer a detailed profile of Oakland University, its writing and rhetoric department, and the professional writing track of its writing and rhetoric major. We overview how the context, culture, and history of the university influenced the development of our program. We also describe the strategies for and challenges of administering a professional/technical writing track within a predominantly composition-rhetoric influenced program.

Keywords. professional writing, writing and rhetoric, curriculum development, program design


What We Are (Not) and What We Might Be: The Professional Writing Minor at the University of Wyoming

Meg Van Baalen-Wood, University of Wyoming

Michael Knievel, University of Wyoming

Abstract. Like many programs in technical and professional communication, the University of Wyoming’s (UW) professional writing minor, established in fall 2001, grew out of a successful undergraduate service course in technical writing. Unlike many programs, however, our minor exists independent of either a graduate or undergraduate major degree program in technical or professional communication. As the sole expression of technical and professional communication at UW, a land-grant university and the only public four-year university in Wyoming, rather than focusing on a niche area in technical and professional communication, UW’s minor has assumed a broad, generalist identity. Here, we examine UW’s minor in professional writing, from its inception to the present. In addition to outlining the program’s motivations, components, and curricula, we address past, current, and future challenges, including, for example, recruiting students to a generalist program and programmatic viability in an institutional context largely devoid of tangible manifestations of writing studies beyond our own. Some of these challenges are unique to our institutional and programmatic contexts; others are likely shared by programs both similar and dissimilar to ours.

Keywords. professional writing; minor; curriculum; resources; institutional forces; technical communication; staffing; recruiting


Curriculum Showcases

Programming Perspectives in Texts and Technology: Teaching Computer Programming to Graduate Students in the Humanities

Rudy McDaniel

University of Central Florida

Abstract. This article discusses how one doctoral program implemented a course designed to teach computer programming to graduate students in the humanities. The article first discusses recent literature that makes connections between programming and the humanities and argues that program administrators may wish to support the learning of programming for a number of reasons, not the least of which is additional scholarly and creative design opportunities for their students. The latter half of the article then discusses the interdisciplinary Texts and Technology PhD program at the University of Central Florida. It broadly describes the program’s history and governance structure and then details how a programming course was recently integrated into the core curriculum. Course goals, assignments, and programming tutorials are discussed and a few examples of major student projects, such as a Dada-inspired sound poem and an experimental web site that converts short stories into abstract art, are presented and made available through hyperlinks. The paper concludes by discussing implications for the field and providing a list of online tutorials and resources that are available for administrators, faculty members, and students who wish to learn more about programming using any number of popular computer languages.

Keywords. curriculum reform, computer programming, coding, project-based assessment, experimental pedagogy, digital literacy, praxis


Teaching Students to Learn Unfamiliar Technology

Nicholas Carrington, Cedarville University

Abstract. In today’s business culture, technology changes quickly, forcing organizations to keep up or work at a disadvantage. In academia, instructors seek to prepare students for this type of technology environment in spite of the challenges they face in doing so. Among other challenges, instructors have long struggled with how to prepare students to learn new technology while in the workplace and how to emphasize to students that technology is a means toproducing effective communication documents. This article describes how we, the professional writing faculty at Cedarville University, have sought to address these issues through research, reflection, and the creation of a new course.

Keywords. technology, software, technological literacy, teaching technology, pedagogy, curriculum


Apparent Feminist Pedagogies: Embodying Feminist Pedagogical Practices at East Carolina University

Erin A. Frost, East Carolina University

Abstract. This curriculum showcase reports on the adaptation of apparent feminist pedagogies (which have been previously featured in a curriculum showcase) to a distance education course. I seek an answer to the question of how apparent feminist pedagogies work differently when the embodiedment of the instructor is not apparent by default. After drawing on cyberfeminist theories to adapt apparent feminist pedagogies to a digital learning environment, I describe and reflect on the work done by students in this course across several platforms, including a public website. This article can help readers to better understand the effects of the instructor’s embodied presence on students and the ways that those effects might change in and across educational contexts. It explains how apparent feminism works in digital contexts; how this pedagogical approach might look in an online graduate seminar; how it affected specific student learning in this specific case; and how these results differed from those I found in face-to-face contexts.

Keywords. technical communication; apparent feminism; digital education; distance education; online pedagogy; cyberfeminism; course design; social justice; efficiency; objectivity; women; culture


Guest Editorial

Mentoring Women Faculty in Technical Communication: Identifying Needs and the Emergence of Women in Technical Communication

Michele Simmons, Miami University

Kristen Moore, Texas Tech University

Patricia Sullivan, Purdue University

Abstract. This editorial provides an overview of the Women in Technical Communication initiative and organization. We trace the history and origins of this now-burgeoning mentoring network, describing both the existing models for mentoring and the ways the Women in Technical Communication mentoring emerged during the organization’s first two years. We articulate the ways Women in Technical Communication responded to the call for mentoring, the strategies the organization employs for building participant-driven mentoring, and the organization’s objectives moving forward.

Keywords. mentoring, Women in Technical Communication, organizational history


Book Reviews

Solving Problems in Technical Communication. Editosed Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart Selber, University of Chicago Press, 2013. 521 pp.

Reviewed by Timothy D. Giles, Georgia Southern University


Rhetoric in the Flesh: Trained Vision, Technical Expertise, and the Gross Anatomy Lab, T. Kenny Fountain, Routledge, 2014. 229 pp.

Reviewed by Les Loncharich, Wright State University