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Technical writing is a critical component of technical education. Many professors who teach environmental building systems, structures, or other technical courses realize the value of assigning technical reports, which require students to gather data, to analyze that data, and to draw conclusions in a cogent manner. Those of us who teach technical courses and read our students’ reports also know how poorly written those reports typically are.

Gerald Grow argued in "The Writing Problems of Visual Thinkers" that architects think—and therefore write—differently than the general population. If Grow is right, should we not develop a unique pedagogy for teaching architects how to communicate through technical writing? And if so, which pedagogy is correct?

In The Reflective Practitioner and Educating the Reflective Practitioner, Donald Schön investigated the way that architects and other professionals work through a problem using a process of testing potential solutions, what Schön called “knowing-in-action,” “reflection-in-action,” and “reflecting on reflection-in- action” (his term for meta-thinking). Because the writing process mirrors the design process in many ways, Schön’s ideas for educating the reflective practitioner should be appropriate for teaching architecture students to write more effectively, specifically when they are assigned technical reports.

This paper is the first step in a planned investigation of applying Schön’s theory of the “reflective practitioner” to the discipline of technical writing. As a first step, this paper begins with a literature review that examines writing manuals created for architects and other design professionals, identifying the way those manuals apply techniques compatible with Schön’s theories. Next, this paper offers a brief review of writing programs at several architecture schools. Following that discussion, this paper introduces some of Donald Schön’s major concepts. Finally, this paper concludes with a next steps section that outlines a proposed, long-term research project built around the proposed concept of “writing-in-action.”

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