'It Can't Tell You How to Do That.' Suggesting a Faculty-Focused Subgenre of Instructional Writing

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Humanities; Department of Engineering Fundamentals


As we prepare new engineers to take on the fourth industrial revolution, engineering faculty are tasked with selecting, learning, evaluating, using, and teaching new technologies to apprentice engineers. To understand how these important tasks are being achieved, 21 engineering faculty members in a STEMfocused Midwest US university were interviewed. Engineering faculty showed an awareness of the rhetorical power of manuals and other instructional resources. Unfortunately, these resources are often inadequately designed to meet the unique needs of engineering faculty. In this paper, we propose that there is an exigency for a faculty-focused subgenre of instructional writing which addresses the needs of engineering instructors who teach students how to use technology while simultaneously learning how to use it themselves. Because of the overwhelming roles that faculty perform, we propose that the composition of this sub-genre should be the duty of technical writers who work closely with technology developers and engineering faculty. We forward that such a subgenre may find space in digital and non-digital learning resources through the inclusion of both the technical information necessary to use the technology, as well as pedagogical tools and activities to support student learning. These materials should be released in accordance with technology updates to ensure faculty are best positioned to teach the most current technologies. The proposed faculty-focused instructional writing subgenre may have implications beyond engineering education, because the need for learning resources may not be unique to engineering faculty, and likely exists for all university faculty learning and introducing new technologies within their courses.

Publication Title

IEEE International Professional Communication Conference