Conference presented by the Program for Writing and Rhetoric at the
University of Colorado Boulder
Through the Program for Writing and Rhetoric’s Writing Initiative for Service and Engagement (WISE), founded in 2008 by Veronica House, the program has integrated service-learning and community-engaged pedagogies throughout its lower– and upper-division writing courses. Currently, more than 30 of PWR’s faculty teach community-engaged writing courses to over 800 students each year who spend over 15,000 on community-based writing projects.
Students in WISE course sections research and produce written, spoken, digital, and multimedia projects about, with, and for university, non-profit, and for-profit agencies that deal with pressing social issues such as literacy, poverty, food security, and environmental justice. Courses combine traditional academic research and readings with relevant community-based work to enhance the educational experience and encourage students to understand real world applications of rhetorical situations and theories. While WISE courses meet all traditional PWR course goals appropriate to the course number, additional learning objectives might include that a student be able to:
- balance theory and research with analysis of community-based experiences
- recognize and analyze correlations between theoretical concepts and community experiences
- produce writing that effectively responds to or addresses a community need
- distinguish individual manifestations of an issue from the systemic, root causes
- assess rhetorical circumstances in the public sphere and intervene appropriately through writing and civic action
- create purpose-driven documents for audiences beyond the classroom
The Program for Writing and Rhetoric understands community-engaged pedagogy as a form of experiential education that integrates academic instruction with educationally meaningful community-centered work that is appropriate to curricular goals in order to enrich and enhance the learning experience, teach civic engagement, and meet community-defined needs.
Why promote community-based learning?
Fifteen years of assessment on the academic impacts of service-learning and other forms of community-based pedagogy in rhetoric and composition classes indicate that service-learning composition students demonstrate higher levels of rhetorical awareness, understanding of counterarguments, understanding of how to tailor language to particular contexts and particular audiences, and understanding of the complexity of arguments than do students in traditional composition courses.
Assessment studies indicate that community-engaged learning aids in student recruitment, retention, graduation rate, career preparedness, and job placement. Engaged students are more likely to remain in the state and donate to their alma mater at higher levels.
PWR courses that have contained a community-engaged component include:
First-Year Writing and Rhetoric; Grant Writing; Business Writing; Professional Communication and Design; Environmental Writing; Rhetorics of Sustainability; Travel Writing; Civic Engagement and New Media; Conversations on the Law; Cross-Cultural Writing for International Students; Food and Culture; Multi-Cultural Rhetorics; On the Boarder: U.S. and Mexico; Field Studies in Civic Engagement; Then and Now: The West; Composing a Civic Life
For extensive resources on designing a community-engaged writing course, connecting to community partners, and producing scholarship of engagement, go to: http://www.colorado.edu/ArtsSciences/PWR/service_learning.html.