The otherness of writing in the engineering curriculum: A practice architectures perspective

  • Rosalie Goldsmith University of Technology Sydney
  • Keith Willey University of Sydney
Keywords: writing practices, engineering education, otherness, practice architectures theory


Engineering students are expected to graduate with high level written and oral communication, yet these expectations continue to fall short despite repeated calls by industry and by accrediting bodies such as Engineers Australia for engineering faculties to address this issue. One explanation for this ongoing challenge is that the prevailing practices of engineering education constrain rather than enable the development of writing practices in the engineering curriculum, in part because writing practices are viewed as ‘other’, and as not belonging to engineering knowledge. We argue that the reasons for the view of ‘otherness’ of writing practices in the engineering curriculum relate ontologically to the construction of engineering identities, and epistemologically to perspectives of engineering and writing as being different types of knowledge. Drawing on elements of identities of engineering educators and students, research on engineering knowledge and legitimation code theory, the authors explore these ideas through the lens of practice architectures theory. The analysis reveals that dominant practices in engineering education place writing practices outside what is seen to be engineering, although there are exceptions. The authors conclude that the practice architectures of the engineering curriculum which prefigure writing as being what engineers are not expected to be ‘good at’, and not as important as technical skills, are so much a part of the ‘unspoken narratives’ of engineering educators that writing practices are marginalised. When they become part of what engineers do, they are re-framed as ‘documentation’. This suggests that writing practices can be seen as intrinsic to engineering education and practice if or when they are re-framed as engineering practice.

Author Biographies

Rosalie Goldsmith, University of Technology Sydney
Rosalie Goldsmith, Lecturer Academic Language and Learning, IML Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Teaching, Learning & Equity) University of Technology, Sydney
Keith Willey, University of Sydney
Associate Professor Faculty of Engineering and IT
How to Cite
GoldsmithR., & WilleyK. (2018). The otherness of writing in the engineering curriculum: A practice architectures perspective. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 12(1), A97-A114. Retrieved from