The Language of Sustainability: From the Basic Writing Classroom to Professional Discourse

Research areas:
Type of Publication:
In Proceedings
Book/Proc. title:
Professional Communication Conference (IPCC), 2011 IEEE International
1 - 11
Understanding and describing professional practice, especially in Engineering and the Sciences, has always been at the heart of research in Professional Communication. Several significant field research projects have showed us that content knowledge alone is not sufficient to claim disciplinary expertise; a rhetorical understanding of the discipline and its ways of thinking is essential in achieving full participation in the field. Most professionals would expect that such a sophisticated approach can only be learned through on-the-job training or opportunities to interact with practitioners within authentic disciplinary contexts. Although this can certainly be the case in many instances, we argue that a rhetorical understanding can be enacted even within a freshman writing classroom. The results of our content and rhetorical analyses of student work from the beginning and the end of a course on academic writing with the theme of sustainability show th at students were able in one semester to write in discipline-appropriate ways and understand the rhetorical strategies necessary to become part of a disciplinary conversation. The implications of our findings can extend into the way we design courses in basic writing or professional communication and the ways we can use pre-assessment data to drive our course design decisions.

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