Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Suha Tamim


At Ciudad Community College (pseudonym) and across the Colorado Community College System, the course competencies for Technical Writing I (ENG 131) have more than tripled to accommodate ENG 131 as a guaranteed transfer course equivalent to ENG 121: English Composition I. Unfortunately, this has had the effect of increasing the workload for students, and the increase in competencies plus the struggle that students already had in meeting course competencies demanded the need for an intervention. The purpose of this convergent, mixed methods, action research study was to examine the effects of authentic learning on the competency levels of technical writing and the meaningfulness of authentic learning of vocational education students in a first semester, technical writing classroom. It is informed by theories of multiple literacies and social constructivism, and four aspects of authentic learning were explored, including student choice, problem-solving, inquiry, and group collaboration. I found that authentic learning does indeed have a positive effect on the technical writing of students, and although some students did not enjoy the authentic learning experience, each student found it meaningful. Authentic learning did not work perfectly, however, and I found that scaffolding is necessary to address issues with students differentiating between inquiry and student choice, and to assist them with problem-solving as a systematic process. I also found that reflections are key in determining the meaningfulness of student experiences, and I discovered that it will be prudent to address specific struggles with online discussion boards. Along with the action plan that stems from an action research cycle, implications for classroom practice and future research are discussed.