Gauging alignment between school and work: An Activity Theory analysis of police report writing instruction

Marianna R Hendricks, University of Texas at El Paso


This dissertation is based on a fifteen-month study of police report writing instruction at one agency, connecting the curriculum at the training academy, field training, and the needs and expectations of multiple report audiences and users. It draws from Rhetorical Genre Studies (Miller, 1984; Russell, 2009), Activity Theory (Engeström, 2008), and Situated Learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Dias, Freedman, Medway, and Paré, 1999) to explore how novices learn a new genre through activity, and how this is complicated by a transition between school and work outside of a university context. Specifically, it focuses on the role of andragogical (rather than pedagogical) writing instruction, the integration between the values of community-oriented policing, writing processes and overall rhetorical awareness, and the impact of institutionalized transition phases. This longitudinal case study explores the intersecting experiences of academy cadets, instructors, trainees in the field, and field training officers (FTOs), as well as the needs and expectations articulated by academy administrators, instructors, patrol supervisors, detectives, and assistant district attorneys. Using a model of multiple activity systems mediated by genre, the discussion explores how a strong degree of alignment can signal a model for other contexts, and argues that Activity Theory can be used to both improve activity and share highly contextualized "best" practices. The findings have implications for law enforcement agencies, writing teachers, and scholars, as well as teachers and institutional leaders concerned about effective ways to scaffold learning transfer.

Subject Area

Adult education|Technical Communication|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Hendricks, Marianna R, "Gauging alignment between school and work: An Activity Theory analysis of police report writing instruction" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3623412.