This chapter explores the tension, in a technical communication graduate program, between academic expectations and “market” (practitioner) expectations when it comes to student outcomes. The focus, especially, is on technological proficiency–on tools–when it comes to graduation portfolios. The authors surveyed students and practitioners, and found that students wanted more training in technological tools, while there is some evidence that practitioners, especially managers, place higher value on higher-order skills. The authors themselves contend that tools are subordinate to theory, but acknowledge that the tension exists, and will probably continue to exist.
I well remember this tension as a professional communication graduate student at Clemson. At that time, I did not know Adobe CS at all, and I was in a visual rhetoric class with several students who had undergrad degrees in technical communication, and knew the software fairly well. As you know if you’ve used Photoshop or Illustrator (or Indesign or Dreamweaver), the learning curve can be fairly steep. I felt like I had been thrown into deep water, and I was puzzled by the resistance, on the part of my teachers, to teaching the software that they clearly expected us to use.
From an assessment perspective, this dovetails with my research interest in multimodality–what exactly are we assessing when we assess portfolios like this? The content? Familiarity with the tools? Some combination? And how, exactly, do we tell them apart, if that is even desirable?