Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of English: English Studies
This dissertation is a grounded theory study of empathy, ethical awareness, and audience engagement activities in students in a technical writing service course. The course was designed around an empathy-oriented approach to teaching technical writing and writing research. The students are primarily computer science majors, and the teaching methods include a genre and writing research approach as well as the use of an extended metaphor of technical communication as a form of teaching. Findings indicate that students respond to the metaphor by drawing upon positive and empathetically-informed models of teachers and teaching to guide how they would work with and write for their own audiences; however, students show moderate resistance to adopting the identity of "writer" and strong resistance to adopting the identity of "researcher."
I argue that teachers tend to undervalue and underutilize the two strongest areas of experience and observationally-derived identity knowledge that students possess (the teacher and the student) while asking them to take on roles or identities such as writer or researcher that we have only described to them but not shown them through direct example. We also ask them to perform activities which we may not have not fully contextualized, or which may not be fully contextualizable given the location of that context outside of the students' areas of experience. The result is an imbalance between identity, performance, and expectations. I consider some pedagogical modifications which more closely follow the contours of student experience and needs, and which may result in improved outcomes in both willingness and ability to engage with diverse audiences and communities. I examine potential implications for technical communication and STEM fields more generally.
Rowan, Robert Michael, "Technical Communication as Teaching: a Grounded Theory Study of Cognitive Empathy and Audience Engagement among Computer Science Majors in a Technical Communication Classroom" (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 426.