Higher Education

Why academics write and speak in jargon — and what they can do about it

Listen to a Hechinger-led panel from SXSWedu and translate “academic” into English

AUSTIN, Texas — “Inquiry-based shared inquiry across cognitive and affective domains.” “An experiential based learning process covering multiple modalities.” “Terminal and enabling objectives with trans-disciplinary functionalities.” “Stackable credentials in the education space.”

Educators, policymakers and entrepreneurs often speak in the multisyllabic jargon of a doctoral thesis. And it diminishes their message.

How can they translate that complexity for the wider audience of investors, clients, politicians, taxpayers, journalists and the rest of us who, after all, are being asked to understand, adopt, and pay for the ideas they pitch?

A new movement is trying to help clear education’s arteries of the edu-speak that gums them up.

In a Hechinger-led panel at SXSWedu, inspired in part by education conferences past, professional communicators demonstrated ways to to speak and pitch in plain English.

The panelists were Bari Walsh, senior project manager for Usable Knowledge at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a writer, editor, and strategic communications specialist; and Ardon Shorr, co-founder of Public Communication for Researchers, which teaches graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University — where he is a biology PhD candidate — how to explain their work and why it matters.

The panel was moderated by Hechinger higher-education editor Jon Marcus.

Listen to the conversation here.

Find many more resources here to help communicate more clearly.

Letters

Jon Marcus

Jon Marcus, higher-education editor, has written about higher education for the Washington Post, USA Today, Time, the Boston Globe, Washington Monthly, is North America higher-education… See Archive

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