Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

David Clark

Committee Members

Rachel Spilka, Rachel Bloom-Pojar, Erin Parcell, Lisa Melonçon


Feedback, Interview, Pedagogy, Technical Communication, Workplace Writing


In Professional and Technical Communication (PTC), feedback has not been studied in proportion to its importance, particularly in service, or introductory, courses. Feedback is a form of assessment; therefore, an empirical study of instructor feedback requires attention to PTC instructors’ pedagogical goals and learning outcomes. This research asked and answered three questions about

1. Instructors’ pedagogical goals and learning outcomes for their PTC service courses,

2. Instructors’ approaches to giving feedback on students’ resumes and cover letters, and

3. The extent to which instructors’ pedagogical goals and feedback aligned.

This research contributes data-driven findings on instructor feedback within PTC service courses, implications about how instructors’ training and theoretical backgrounds affect their pedagogy, and information about how instructors’ goals reflect PTC’s overarching goals. I interviewed 10 instructors and collected their service course syllabi, resume and cover letter assignment sheets, and instructors’ feedback on students’ de-identified resumes and cover letters. For analysis, I coded the data using a coding scheme that emerged from the data and from Miller’s genre as social action.

When instructors spoke about their pedagogical goals, they most often discussed Neo-Aristotelian rhetoric and genre. In their syllabi learning outcomes, instructors framed rhetoric and critical thinking as most important. When giving feedback, half of the instructors gave formative feedback while half gave summative feedback. Summative feedback was faster; however, instructors who gave formative feedback generally received more polished writing.

Four implications arose from the discrepancies between instructors’ pedagogical goals and their feedback-giving practices:

1. Instructors’ relationships with theory were informed by their graduate-level training and/or their workplace experience.

2. Instructors rarely discussed teaching information literacy and content-centric writing in their pedagogical goals; however, they gave ample feedback about issues of information, detail, and content on students’ resumes and cover letters.

3. Instructors’ labor conditions informed the perceived quality of their feedback and their adherence to their pedagogical goals.

4. Instructors often imported pedagogical methods from first-year composition into PTC service courses due to a lack of time or training.

This study calls for further empirical research about instructors’ training experiences, instructor feedback, and field-wide goals for the PTC service course.