NSSE questions in Canada and the U.S.


Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro PDF comparison

In my research today I compared the Canadian and American versions of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) instrument for 2010.

This is the survey that over 1 million university students across North America are invited to take in their 1st and 4th year.

The NSSE survey page calls the Canadian version the “Canadian English” version.  But the version is not just different in terms of its “Canadian English” vocabulary (such as “school/college” in the US versus “university” in Canada). 

The Canadian version is different in terms of its cultural content and rhetorical approaches.

This post provides comparative screenshots of survey content to help us ponder why these differences exist.

Continue reading


A Technical Writer Talks about the Relevance of Rhetoric


"Stairway to heaven," Paris - by Dmitry A. Mottl, June 2007. From Wikimedia Commons.

By guest columnist:

Andy Kubrin

Staff Technical Writer

Wind River Systems


Edited by T. Smith, Edu*Rhetor

A popular view of academia is that it is sheltered from the rough-and-tumble of everyday life. Leaving aside the question of whether this view has merit — and my beleaguered friends in the academy assure me that it does not — university students contemplating their future careers might still ask themselves how relevant their studies are to the conditions and vocational demands of the workplace.

For students of rhetoric, this question is especially pointed.

Rhetoric is, after all, a liberal art, with an elaborate body of theory but few, if any, marketable skills. How relevant is it to the 21st century workplace? Continue reading

The rhetoric and economics of veterinary health care (PART 2)

Our dog the day after his surgery

Our dog the day after his surgery

When our dog broke his leg and we paid for costly surgery, the veterinary emergency communication described in my previous blog entry was only ONE dimension of our experience.  What about our communication among family members and friends, and our own reasoning about the cost and the ethics of our decision?

We have had many conversations, emails, and debates about whether it was right or wrong for us to spend this much money on our puppy.

I am sure many among them are thinking of one fact — we have no children.

So the reasoning goes, we must have an “unhealthy” love for our pet. That’s a common sentiment out there…

Continue reading

The rhetoric and economics of veterinary health care

Our dog's fractured radius and ulna, March 28, 2009

Our dog's fractured radius and ulna, March 28, 2009

Our crisis

Last weekend our 11-month-old puppy broke his leg while running down our stairs too fast.

Yes he is okay now, recovering from his surgery.

The extremely different experiences we had at 2 veterinary hospitals prompted me to think more than I ever have before about the communication we engage in at veterinary hospitals.

It’s complex:  in a crisis, one needs to communicate about the medical options, the expense of veterinary health care, the emotional trauma of the owners,  and the intrinsic value of their animal companions.

This is a perfect occasion for applying rhetorical concepts to real life.

Continue reading

Inkshedding: an activity for events

Inkshedding participants, 2008. From the Inkshed website.

Inkshedding participants. All photos from Inkshed 23 conference website.

“Inkshedding” is a way of discussing ideas through a writing activity done as a group.  It has been done at academic conferences, in classrooms, and at Town Hall forums.

I was recently asked to explain inkshedding to an organization affiliated with my university that was planning an event on a pressing social issue.

Here is a brief explanation of how to plan and execute an inkshedding activity as part of a public forum on a topic of broad social interest.

Continue reading

Gender and Organizational Communication

Geometry and Mathematics work together

clip from Marten de Vos: Geometry and Mathematics work together

Here is a short handout on “Gender and Collaboration in Professional Communication” that I provided to participants of a business breakfast in 2007.  It has my findings from research and experience boiled down into tips for women and men.

Context:  Last year, March 2007, I was invited to speak on a panel at a Deloitte & Touche women’s network breakfast at the posh Palliser Hotel in Calgary. What an experience, sitting next to some important women leaders, Shelley Youngblut (editor of Swerve magazine) and Bonnie DuPont (VP of Enbridge; on the Bank of Canada board of directors).

Despite being quite intimidated, it went very well; I made several important contacts and hopefully inspired people to work and learn collaboratively.

Continue reading

Isocrates and Organizational Leadership

from "Demosthenes Practicing" by Lecomte du Nouy, Wikipedia Commons

from "Demosthenes Practicing" by Lecomte du Nouy, Wikipedia Commons

While teaching an independent study course on Organizational Culture, I realized how relevant the ancient rhetorician Isocrates was. Isocrates theorized rhetorical education and discussed political rhetoric. But the analogy between political community and organizational community is productive. Thinking of similarities across the political/organizational divide provides a wider perspective on ethics and a holistic view of the internal and external political and social context of businesses.

Continue reading