Article Review: 250-word summary of “Layered Literacies: A Theoretical Frame for Technical Communication Pedagogy”

Cook, Kelli Cargile. 2002. “Layered Literacies: A Theoretical Frame for Technical Communication Pedagogy.” Technical Communication Quarterly 11 (1): 5–29.

This article introduces and defines six “literacies” that the author believes, while not exhaustive, offer a theoretical context with which to structure technical communication pedagogy. The Layered Literacies approach stems from an acceptance that basic literacy (reading and writing) is inherent for any graduate. Further, this article focuses on the knowledge that should be gained from a technical communication curriculum that prepares students to enter the workforce with an “assumption that workplace writers need a repertoire of complex and interrelated skills to be successful” (Cook 2002, 7).

The ‘current’ (as of 2002) literacies that the author suggests are basic, rhetorical, social, technological, ethical, and critical. While instructors and programs may differ on which literacies are important for students to take to the workplace, the Layered Literacies approach offers a system of curriculum suggestions to help instructors integrate multiple literacies into individual courses and programs of study, no matter which literacies are chosen. The important aspect of this pedagogical system is that multiple literacies are introduced and discussed in each class as well as systematically throughout a program.

Cook offers specific curriculum instruction for each literacy and how to assess, or measure, students’ knowledge, understanding, or awareness depending on the literacy. This pedagogy differs from the practical or instrumental approach of teaching raw skills and concludes that instruction in theoretical literacies will better prepare technical communication students to be successful employees in any field.
Kelli Cargile Cook is an Associate Professor at Texas Tech University and has authored several articles, book chapters, and two books, The Elements of Technical Writing and Online Education: Global Questions, Local Answers.

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2 Comments

Filed under Article Reviews, Technical Writing

2 responses to “Article Review: 250-word summary of “Layered Literacies: A Theoretical Frame for Technical Communication Pedagogy”

  1. Pingback: STC Summit 2012 Presentation: Using Video in Tech Comm | ferswriteshoe

  2. Yes, indeed. To enter the workplace, technical communicators need to learn that what they learn in school isn’t likely what will be valued in the workplace. What is valued is straightforward, no-nonsense, topic-based, modular, minimalistic writing that can be leveraged by people and machines to deliver information people need when and where they need it. Far too many old school writers don’t have the skills needed to get them the high paying jobs they’ve grown accustomed to having. When they get laid off, they can’t often get a similar paying job–or any job at all in many circumstances. What we need is more reality and less theory. My two cents, for what it’s worth.

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