The Joint Academic Competence Framework
If you are interested in terms of qualification and employability or curriculum design and mobility, then you are in the right place. The Academic Competence Framework provides a comprehensive overview of all competencies that is relevant for future technical writers.
The framework comprises 22 first-level subjects, which were allocated to six major competence dimensions: academic perspective, communication and culture, content, management, technology and media, and transversal competencies. Each dimension incorporates several subjects and sub-subjects and describes the associated learning goals and competencies that need to be taught for those sub-subjects. Overlaps and cross-references testify to interconnections within the overall scope of the framework between various sub-subjects and their associated competencies.
The Competence Dimensions
This part is important for students, who need to understand academic perspectives of the discipline they are studying, as well as for practitioners, who help to professionalize the field of technical communication.
Technical writers need to understand the purpose, application and process of research. They need to know current research questions and arguments. They need to be aware of methods that are commonly used in technical communication. They need to understand how research impacts their practice.
Philosophy and Ethics:
Technical writers need to consider the impact of technology on society. They also need to understand the impact of communication decisions on individuals and society.
The basic focus of this part is the communicative context of activities in technical communication in a broad sense. It is generally more about understanding background theories than about actually producing texts. Students are introduced to general theories about the conditions under which technical communication is performed (e.g. insights into situational models or into cognitive processes of textual understanding) as well as to the aspect of creating language versions of texts. Another aim is to create insights into how chunks of specialized knowledge may be categorized, named and stored in efficient ways, which is of relevance for mono- as well as multilingual processes in professional technical communication.
This competence dimension encompasses the broad range of key subjects dealing with planning, developing, evaluating, and deploying effective content. This means far more than books, magazines and websites. The future of creative, witty, engaging content is more about data and providing the right information at the right time. Content strategy skills, especially in information mining and information architecture, must be combined with professional knowledge of information development, visualization, and deployment. Training and elearning are a special subject, where competencies in teaching theories and instructional design are needed to develop user-centered trainings.
The “management” dimension combines two layers: theory and application.
The theoretical layer starts with the explanation of basic concepts, approaches and methods of management, and leads to the definition of concepts directly pertaining to technical communication activities, such as: strategies, decision-making, planning, evaluation and control. The theoretical layer can be gradually developed and deepened at the appropriate stages of education, configured according to the organizational requirements and targeted to the needs of the labor market. In this way, conceptual models and ways of understanding and resolving problem situations by technical writers are created.
In the application layer, the focus is moved to specific communication needs and relevant actions at an enterprise level (e.g. project management, building various types of strategies, risk and time management) with regard to specific groups of people, materials, technology, finances, information, etc. With the addition of IT tools and solutions, taking into account the current capabilities of an organization, as well as challenges for the future of enterprises and the opportunities of the networked society, it will help to effectively solve the problems of communication in organizations and relate them to specific issues represented by the respective sub-subjects of the TecCOM framework management subject.
This dimension is concerned with technology, techniques, and media competencies necessary for producing effective content and professional information products using current and best-fitting tools and media. For core application fields such as machinery and software development, technical writers also need knowledge about the most relevant engineering disciplines, as well as understanding of the basics of natural sciences and computer science, to communicate with engineers, software developers, and administrators and to develop information for these target groups.
Technical writers combine an affinity for technical systems with an affinity for language and communication along with other so-called transversal or generic competencies. The essence of their job is to critically explore, understand and explain technical issues in clear and understandable “plain” language, hence targeting the needs of diverse information users.
This competence dimension encompasses two main subjects: language skills and personal competencies. Despite the fact that these competencies, if taken in isolation, have relevance for many other careers and job profiles, a unique set of transversal competencies can be defined that specifically applies to technical communication.
Language pertains both to native and foreign language or languages and covers the four traditional components of language learning – listening, reading, writing and speaking – as well as interacting in typical technical communication situations. Technical writers need proficiency in language because they use language as the means to craft and assess information products and to function in the workplace, be it mono- or multilingual. Students should therefore be taught how to communicate effectively and efficiently to and with people with varied functions, roles, levels of knowledge, and cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, technical writers should be familiar with field-specific languages and their terminologies and with technical and business English in particular.
Personal competencies include technical aptitude as well as good communicative, managing, problem-solving, and critical and innovative thinking skills. Personal competencies relate to ways of organizing work as well as to learning and working style.