As a teacher-scholar of technical communication, I center everything I do around my students. Their learning is at the core of my lesson plans, our class discussions, my research, and my writing. I am always thinking of the next thing that I can do to help them become more effective communicators and more confident technical writers. Because of them, I am excited to teach, to innovate in the classroom, and to adjust my plans to their needs. I believe that my students teach me more than I will ever teach them—and I don’t want to stop learning. To establish this relationship, I believe it is my responsibility to honor my students, their writing, and their voices in discussions. I welcome and encourage every voice to speak and share. Because my students will use this course, and their knowledge of writing and revision, in their workplaces, my pedagogical goals as an instructor are geared towards their success beyond my classroom and the walls of academia. Giving them an opportunity to build experiential knowledge through self-directed, authentic learning and through service learning in their community, my students will be prepared to produce quality professional documents.
I include many chances for self-directed creation, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation in assignments and discussions. My primary goal as a teacher is to facilitate learning in a natural way for students—to meet them where they are as writers but to help them improve through learning a diverse range of genres and reflecting on the differences in audience between them. This increases student retention of knowledge and encourages them to use that knowledge beyond the four walls of the classroom.
To begin, I foster self-directed, authentic learning for my students. In my classroom and assignments, students use their own interests and experiences and apply course objectives in a meaningful way. To these students, my technical communication course may appear to be another box to check off on their way to getting a degree, a better job, or breaking economic cycles for their family, but positioning their learning into their own world motivates them to use technical writing in a more effective way: as a rhetorical tool that they can use to do things, make things, and be something in that world. For example, students create technical documents that they can use personally, either to showcase their talent and work, or as job application materials. This kind of personalization is valuable because it builds stronger engagement between students and their education and promotes autonomy in their work, a skill that is widely used in the professional field.
Part of authentic learning carries an active component with it, where students examine and evaluate their own writing processes through tiered assignments. Within the classroom, I facilitate class activities that promote this active reflection and evaluation, including group analysis workshops and peer brainstorming sessions, and workshops to draft assignments. These tiered assignments give students the space to actively work on their projects well before the deadline and teaches them that writing is a process and takes thought and preparation to do well, both useful skills for writing in the workplace. As part of this active learning, I also allow students to choose from a “cafeteria-style” of choices, ranging from audience to genre. This encourages students to think actively about the situation their writing is in and make rhetorical choices.
Authentic learning is assisted by service learning, where students practice what they learn about technical communication in a real-world setting. I expect them to seek out to a community member or organization in any business setting (entrepreneur, non-profit, etc.) and establish a relationship where the student can create a technical document for them. In the past, my students have enjoyed the connections that they have made with the community, and the community members have appreciated the work that my students have done for them.
Because of my own experience in the field as a professional writer and editor, I feel it is important to prepare students for work as a technical communicators, and it is empowering work because technical communication is a valuable skill set for students to have, regardless of their eventual career choices. Students learn these skills through a variety of written and visual design assignments in print and in virtual spaces. I help students become more comfortable writing in business and multimodal settings to meet the current expectations of many technical writing positions in the field. In my class, they discover and use technological tools that they can utilize in workplace. While their projects are self-directed to encourage creativity and planning, my goal is to include choices of different genres that are commonly used in technical communication for them to choose from. I feel that it is my responsibility to support students in their future job applications with an established, professional online portfolio that demonstrates their versatility as technical writers.
There are just as many teachers in my classroom as there are students, which means that each student brings valuable contributions to the room from their own experience as writers, and we can all learn from them. My position in the classroom is one of facilitator, and as such it is my responsibility to decolonize the space, working with students to create open dialogue and engagement. Students create this through discussions and workshopping, while I am simply there to provide the framework they need to do this in. I am just a facilitator—my students are the real stars of the classroom. They are the ones who rise to my expectations and write more than they ever thought possible. As their instructor I fulfill my responsibility to show them additional tools to do that.