Faculty Stories: Brett Kolles


Describe what you are trying to accomplish with the specific project or teaching practice featured here.

It’s often said that misery is the mother of invention, and quite candidly, I was never satisfied with the Heavy Duty Truck Technology technical writing textbook that we used, nor was I keen on any of the other like textbooks available. I wanted to create a technical writing textbook that would blend well the academic with the practical. After interviewing many HDTT leaders in the field and online research, I was able to put together a textbook that would satisfy our enrolled program students and their future employers.


What technology/tools are you using in this project or teaching practice? What is the role of the technology in this project or teaching practice?

This textbook would not have been made possible without substantial research both in the field and online. I was able to see firsthand the sophisticated new technology in the HDTT field, thanks to on-site demonstrations provided by the Twin Cities transportation leaders. In the classroom, I can speak authoritatively on some of the equipment they will be using, plus sharing the business communications advancements I discovered while doing my own online research.


How does this project or practice influence student learning?

The textbook helped in several ways. First, all of the students recognized the very practical nature of the textbook as I reference local HDTT employers and quoted many of them on what they want of their future employees. Second, by having the instructor use the textbook that he authored gave the students respect for the hard work and knowledge I put into its creation. In addition, the cost savings to students is notable. They students now pay around $20 for what used to cost $120; in addition, this textbook they read cover to cover. Finally, the textbook helps to organize the course itself as we complete one chapter each week for the 16 week course.


What specific student skills are developed through this project or practice?

Students will have created a top notch resume, cover letter, learned various proposal designs, memorized field acronyms, created accident reports, processed warranty paperwork, and all while greatly improving their professional writing skills


What comments have you received from students about this project or practice relative to their learning? Do you have a direct quote from a student or students that addresses this?

I just received this from a student:

“Here is my final project. I have really enjoyed your class this last semester! I have learned so much from you and I will use these skills for life. Thank you for writing your own book and making this class much more applicable for us students in this field! Thank your once again for all you have done.” — Ben Steward


How has this project or practice changed the way you teach, or made your teaching better?

I believe I now have “street credibility.” I can talk with authority and knowledge of HDTT technical writing and its field leaders and employers. It makes the classroom much more interesting, vibrant, and attentive.


How does this project or practice relate to assessment in your course(s)? How do you assess whether the project or practice has been successful/useful in the above areas – such as impact on student learning?

The final project of the semester combines everything they learned from the textbook, from the creation of SWOT analysis, to graphs, to persuasive proposal writing. In addition, students need to stand before the class and pitch their proposal as if they were addressing employers and co-workers. It’s an extremely edifying process as the students benefit from sharing their research and gain experience in public speaking. The final project is often, but not always, shared with their present employer who invariably appreciates the student’s initiative, creativity, and demonstrable professionalism.