South African Journal of Higher Education

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Communication practices in workplaces and higher education

C Winberg


Communication practices in workplace and related higher education sites in the fields of architecture, mechanical engineering, and radiography were studied and compared. A wide variety of communication practices was found in workplaces, each with specific purposes, audiences and contexts; a more limited range of communication practices was found in higher education departments, with less clarity with regard to the intended purpose, audience and context of the communication. The study showed that in their workplaces architects, engineers, and radiographers do not normally write for other architects, engineers or radiographers, but for related professionals; architects would, for example, prepare drawings and documents for structural engineers, mechanical engineers would prepare layout diagrams and instructions for electrical engineers, and radio-therapists would prepare and update patient records for oncologists. The clear sense of purpose, audience, and context that is apparent in workplace writing is related to the inter-professional, inter-disciplinary focus of professional writing. In contrast, the communication practices in career-focused (undergraduate) higher education tend to be intra-professional, and intra-disciplinary; this causes students to experience confusion in terms of the purpose, audience and context of their writing.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 21 (4) 2007: pp. 781-798
AJOL African Journals Online