Recent Scholarship on Contingency: “Contingent Faculty, Online Writing Instruction, and Professional Development in Technical and Professional Communication” (Lisa Meloncon) in Technical Communication Quarterly

Meloncon, Lisa. “Contingent Faculty, Online Writing Instruction, and Professional Development in Technical and Professional Communication.” Technical Communication Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 3, 2017, pp. 256-272.

In “Contingent Faculty, Online Writing Instruction, and Professional Development in Technical and Professional Communication,” Lisa Meloncon is concerned about the training that contingent faculty in Technical and Professional Communication (TPC) receive “because they teach 87% of service courses” (256). In particular, she wants to make sure that contingent faculty receive sufficient “faculty development and training opportunities” because of their integral role in introducing students to the field (257). She learned about the experiences of contingent faculty teaching TPC courses by administering a survey to “91 … primarily female,” largely full-time, non-tenure track faculty (257).

Survey Questions

She asked the following questions, and I included key findings in parentheses after each question:

  1. Do you have autonomy to design your own courses? (57% do)
  2. Do you have access to an instructional designer (someone who will help you put [sic] and/or update your online course)? (58% do)
  3. Who has ownership of your online course? (48% do not know; 17% do)
  4. Have you ever taken a formal course for teaching online? (62% have, though “14% … paid for their own training”) (258-261)


Meloncon recommends three ways to provide professional development for contingent faculty:

  1. Reading Landscapes (264-266)
  2. Communities of Practice (267)
  3. Pedagogical Models (267-268)

Reading Landscapes derives from cultural geography and “considers all the contexts that must be accounted for when creating a professional development program” (264). The contexts relevant to teaching TPC courses include “personal, pedagogical, managerial, technical, and institutional” (265). Administrative contexts slightly differ and include “technological, spatial, legal, managerial, pedagogical, and institutional” (265). The goals of these heuristics are to determine whether the instructor is prepared to teach an online TPC course and whether an institution is prepared to support a TPC instructor (266).

Communities of Practice refers to a group of people with a shared vested interest in something (267). Essentially, Communities of Practice share information with one another in a common repository that they may draw on as necessary (267).

The Pedagogical Models section “discusses the type of information that needs to be included in a [Community of Practice]” (267). Meloncon emphasizes that the Pedagogical Models should be “pedagogically driven … rather than … technology-driven”—i.e., examples of assignments (267-268).

Final Thoughts

Technical Communication Quarterly is published for the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW). They have a Word Press Bulletin that includes postings about pedagogy (see “Category: Pedagogy”). The Association for Business Communication (ABC), an organization with a parallel interest in workplace writing, provides a model that could be useful for ATTW. At its yearly convention, the ABC has panels devoted to teaching in the popular My Favorite Assignment panels (see Whalen). Many of these ideas are published later in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, with accompanying teaching materials on the ABC website (see “Teaching and Learning”). Perhaps ATTW could provide a similar service on their website for its members in support of Meloncon’s suggestions.

Works Cited

“Category: Pedagogy.” ATTW Bulletin, n.d., Accessed 14 May 2018.

“Teaching and Learning.” Association for Business Communication, 2018, Accessed 14 May 2018.

Whalen, Joel D. “My Favorite Assignment – Speeding Teaching Innovations to Market.” Association for Business Communication, 20 April 2017, Accessed 14 May 2018.


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