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When Traditional Chinese Culture Meets a Technical Communication Program in a Chinese University: Report on Teaching Technical Communication in China

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Purpose: This article examines specific manifestations of the generalizations identified by literature in pedagogy in a Chinese university.

Method: Five open questions were asked of the university's five technical communication instructors in a 90-minute focus-group interview session to identify the important areas in pedagogy as conditioned by Chinese culture. The 300 students were surveyed to reveal their understanding of technical communication as it existed in China. Features as conditioned by Chinese culture and as manifested in the 300 students were also identified through my teaching and observing their performance in class.

Results: The five instructors taught the same lessons and the same course content determined by the university. They focused on teaching professional terms and phrases. They administered examinations throughout a semester to help students memorize the terms. The 300 students generally thought that technical communication was about science and technology. The general audience of technical communication, for them, was basically their country, and the purpose was to serve their country and society. In class, these students often studied through collaboration in groups; they memorized almost everything from their professor; and they preferred a broad thinking style to tackling broad issues.

Conclusions: Technical communication pedagogy is governed by Confucianism and the test-oriented Chinese society. In class, students were motivated by the collectivism Chinese culture stresses. Students' rote learning approach was influenced by their traditional way of learning, and the broad thinking style was a textual mechanism for students to complete assignments while upholding patriotism.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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