Allen, Nancy, and Steven T. Benninghoff. 2004. “TPC Program Snapshots: Developing Curricula and Addressing Challenges.” Technical Communication Quarterly 13 (2): 157–185.
This article combines quantitative data from the results of surveys of technical and professional communication (TPC) programs along with a literature review of humanities and technology literature. The surveys examined what the core program curricula were for TPC programs—the authors examined the courses using a quantitative scale to rank the frequency and breadth of the courses within a program.
The examination itself (more so than the results) provides a background that helps frame my research on ethics in TPC programs and whether the curricula adequately prepare students for the workplace.
Limitations of the research to my topic
One limitation of this article is that it surveys undergraduate programs whereas my focus will be on graduate programs. However, I believe that this serves as a useful frame for whether students who enter graduate TPC programs are entering with a strong foundation in ethical theory and how this may or may not impact the results of my research of graduate programs.
The survey results were not surprising in that the majority of the programs emphasized publishing, writing, rhetorical/audience analysis, and document design. Ethical theory ranked 14 out of 21 for the top program core topics. What this research showed is that while ethics topics are covered in many non-topic-specific courses, they are not featured in courses or a course focus in most TPC programs. The authors were surprised by this result and noted that
Ethics instruction is not taught as a core topic
The low score for ethics (14%) as a core topic surprised us because it had been rated as receiving classroom attention at the first or second levels by 88% of programs (Allen and Benninghoff 2004, 171).
An important corollary from this paper’s research is how the programs’ cores prepare students to be technologically literate. This aspect of the research is not answered in this paper but brings up many valuable questions about perceived digital literacy versus how many courses should focus on tangible “technology” skills to prepare students to contribute meaningfully in the workplace. The authors framed the topic as what “procedures TPC programs are using to address the challenge of balancing technological skills with literacy and humanistic issues” (Allen and Benninghoff 2004, 160).
Importance of a critical analysis of technology
Last, the authors discuss that a critical analysis of technology is important to “be able to engage in…discussions surrounding the development and uses of technology” (Allen and Benninghoff 2004, 179). I would argue that this critique is an essential component of what an ethics foundation offers students, not only on the “uses and effects of technologies” but also on the benefits to students as they navigate both technology and the workplace.