Different Approaches to Similar Challenges: An Analysis of the Occupational Cultures of the Disciplines of Technical Communication and Training Tutorial


Problem: Perhaps it is presumptuous of technical communicators to assume that, because some of their skills that might be employed in developing and delivering training materials, that those skills alone are qualifications to work in training, much less the source by which the processes of Training might be examined. Using data from one survey and one interview-based study of the work of Technical Communication and Training groups, as well as participation on committees responsible for certification examinations for technical communicators and trainers, this tutorial analyzes differences in the occupational cultures of the two fields. Key concepts: The work differs: technical communicators produce content that explains how to perform tasks; trainers produce programs that develop skills that a third party can verify. To do so, technical communicators follow a process that emphasizes writing and production; trainers follow a process that emphasizes the analysis of intended goals and evaluation of whether those goals have been achieved. The guiding philosophy of Technical Communication is usability; the guiding philosophy of Training is performance. Although both disciplines are rooted in cognitive psychology, the primary intellectual roots of Technical Communication are in rhetoric and composition, while the primary intellectual roots are in education. The preferred research methods of Technical Communication are critical; the preferred research methods of trainers are empirical qualitative and quantitative methods. Key lessons: As a result, Technical Communication professionals and researchers who want to work in training should approach the field in a culturally appropriate way by (1) recognizing distinctions between a Communication product and a training program, (2) recognizing distinctions in work processes, (3) recognizing distinctions in language, (4) recognizing differences in values, and (5) acknowledging that an academic discipline of training exists.

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