Communicative savvy

Communicative ‘savvy’ (Dannels & Martin, 2009; see also, Schryer et al, 2005) is defined as a kind of “rhetorical flexibility” (Dannels & Martin, 2008, p. 154). It is realized through  “an openness,” which allows genre users to adjust to the demands of “particular circumstances” (Schryer et al., 2005, p. 256) and act “in situations of uncertainty” where they must “improvise and manage” (p. 256) communication in order to meet the demands arising. Schryer and Spoel (2005) refer to this process as “improvisation” (p. 414).


Dannels, D. P., & Martin, K. N. (2008). Critiquing critiques: A genre analysis of feedback across novice to expert design studios. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 22(2), 135-159.

Schryer, C. F., & Spoel, P. (2005). Genre theory, health-care discourse, and professional identity formation. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 19(3), 249-278.

Schryer, C. F., Lingard, L., & Spafford, M. M. (2005). Techne or artful science and the genre of case presentations in healthcare settings. Communication Monographs, 72(2), 234-260.



"We note that besides their allegiance to expertise described as factual knowledge or accepted technique (techne 1), these healthcare fields also advocate savvy practice (techne 2), an openness to adjusting techniques to particular circumstances. This kind of practice is probably impossible to teach in classroom situations and requires the presence of a specific case. Most importantly this type of practice involves students in situations of uncertainty and demonstrates to them ways to improvise and manage ambiguous, difficult cases. Finally, this kind of practice remains open to change and provides a corrective to the sometimes unreflective acceptance of factual knowledge or accepted technique." (schryer et al., 2009, p. 156)




Original Use: 

"For those of us who are cross-curricular scholars, more questions arise. How can we best provide a relevant and useful professionalization experience (in this case, within the critique) that prepares students for the diverse realities of the social relationships and professional identities of the workplace without compromising what is important to the academic space? How can we help our students understand the realities of their future workplaces and their potential for either reifying or changing them? How tied to workplace realities should we be in our classrooms—both within and outside our dis- cipline? What is our role in graduating students who can talk the talk—if the talk is potentially power driven, demonstrative, or competitive? Perhaps contexts such as the one in this study call for instruction in what Schryer, Lingard, and Spafford (2005) identified as “techne . . . savvy practice . . . an openness to adjusting techniques to particular circumstances” (p. 256) or to the “rhetorical genre knowledge” that Artemeva (2005) suggested might facilitate students’ transition to the workplace. Yet, if we take on this charge, how might we use feedback to best sculpt these abilities? We might assume that feedback implicating more egalitarian, collaborative relationships helps students develop the ability to be flexible in their decision making, but what if that kind of communicative “savvy” is better fostered within more hierarchical and directive communication climates? Future research could explore how particular kinds of feedback support or constrain students’ rhetorical flexibility as they transition to the workplace."

Contributed by: 

Artemeva, Natasha

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