Outcomes and assessment for undergraduate technical communication programs



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Texas Tech University


The 1983 publication A Nation at Risk exemplified ongoing and heightened concern related to achievement in schools and universities in the United States. Increasingly, schools and universities are facing demands to demonstrate what and how well students are learning. Outcomes assessment is one way for academic institutions, departments, and programs to demonstrate learning achieved by their students in response to increasing demands for accountability. The research for this dissertation aimed to contribute to understanding the constructs incorporated into programmatic learning outcomes for undergraduate technical communication programs. My research sought to answer how the constructs are addressed and demonstrated by students as outcomes for assessment. Further, I identified a framework to begin to contextualize the constructs of information literacy (IL) and technology as technical communication learning outcomes. I conducted a case study of the Multimedia Writing and Technical Communication (MWTC) Program at Arizona State University (ASU) using grounded theory to analyze texts in student capstone electronic portfolios from three semesters. The MWTC Program uses a modified version of the Writing Program Administrators’ Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition (WPA OS) as programmatic learning outcomes. The modified version incorporates IL and technology, constructs that are not well-defined as learning outcomes for rhetoric and composition, in general, and technical communication specifically. My research aimed to understand how students claimed and supported achievement of outcomes embedded within the WPA OS as modified for a technical communication program. Further, my research contributes to and builds upon studies which have begun to identify information literacy as task- and context-oriented. In addition, this research contributes to the knowledge base related to pedagogy and assessment of electronic portfolios within the field of technical communication.