To set the scene for the conversation about how we get our students to engage and remain engaged in city life, so that they care about our community and stay in Boston. Boston is a college town.
These were the key questions. What started as a class with a “Boston” theme turned into a class on civic engagement by examining how that plays out in one urban environment.
“Writing for Civic Engagement” is a genre-based writing course that uses the city and community resources as texts to explore rhetorical situations. Assignments call on writers to do research, and, in turn, explore the various genres and media that can represent the results of that research. Using the city as a theme and point of reference, students will begin to observe and interpret how research and writing factor into their everyday social, academic, and future professional lives. Each assignment presents a rhetorical situation that asks the student—the writer—to make choices in terms of research, audience, topic and genre of presentation. In addition, each assignment will in some way call upon the student to explore the city, its history, design, culture, landscape, and social issues in order to gather research. By introducing students to various genres of writing, I hope to show them that serious research and writing does not just involve traditional academic term papers—but can also encompass reports, personal memoirs, commentary, fieldwork, critical reflection, and visual design. Students will learn not only how to present their research, but also how research and writing functions in society. This course will provide the space for students to discover and give voice to the people, scenes, and representations of city life that they observe, interview, interact with and read about.
This was where I saw some of the best conversations from the group. The readings were short, provocative and something they all had opinions on just from being members of society and the education world.
There are HandsOn affiliates all over the country. DC Cares, NY Cares, etc. Calendar program drives the volunteering by allowing accessibility and flexibility to volunteers.
So we knew we wanted to do service learning. I had a community partner. And I found Emerson Senior Jeannie Harrell, a Writing, Literature and Publishing student to design and produce the magazine online—in coordination with the students. She became a consultant and it was a collarborative effort.
These were quickly turning into the components we needed to create this education in civic engagement…
What we hoped for…
The Research Writing course is designed using an approach that stems from traditional rhetorical appeals, but updated to include the presence of an exigence that calls on students to write based on the factors of the rhetorical situation. Students must realize that all writing has a purpose, an audience, a message, a writer, and a context. Students must learn to negotiate the situation with their awareness and make educated choices about how to design the writing.
Wordle.net allows you to cut and paste notes or text and creates this image that highlights those words which appear most frequently in the text. This wordle came from our brainstorm on what should be included in the magazine. Emphasis was on words like Boston, Exploring, Civic Engagement, Memoirs, Freewrites and Place.
So what did we do and learn this semester…
Magazine cover and masthead—Title came from one student’s first piece of writing for our class which was a letter to his dad about how big the sky seemed as he negotiated his first semester away from home.
Sections titled by theme—each group of 4 students wrote and edited their sections. These were “notes from the editors” to open up the section and introduce the writing.
Jordan and Sophie reflect on volunteer experience.
Justin and Carson describe a place in the city that had an effect on them this semester.
Chris relays his experience playing Trivial Pursuit with the elderly and what he realized about time.
A page specifically dedicated to the genre of the testimonial to show Boston Cares what we experienced and gained from the partnership.
Our results and objectives met in this way.
Reflecting was the most effective means of writing the students did in class. They continued to reflect in the magazine and that was a term we used to describe the “mood” of the publication when working with Jeannie. The course ended up being an exploration of the city and themselves. The big realizations came in the reflecting. So many students started the semester saying they tried to switch out after finding out about the required service, but by the end, they got it. Whether they liked it or not didn’t matter to me, as they long as they were able to figure out what civic engagement meant to them.
Writing for civic engagement presentation
CASE STUDY: BOSTON Elizabeth Parfitt First-Year Writing Program Writing, Literature and Publishing Department Emerson College AAUP Conference -- June 12, 2010
As we enter into the conversation…“Smartphones, GPS, wireless technology, and a resurgent spirit of civic engagement mean that all of us are eyes and ears on the streets, that neighbors are our greatest source of data, and our citizens the best civic entrepreneurs. -- Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino January 4, 2010 Inaugural Address Elizabeth Parfitt
The Research Questions? How do you design an education in civic engagement? (Instructor) What does it mean to be civically engaged? (Student) What are our roles as citizens and scholars? (Instructor and Students) Elizabeth Parfitt
The HypothesisWR121 Research WritingWriting for Civic Engagement, Case Study: BostonAfter this course you should be able to… Understand the civic roles you play as a scholar and citizen in the Boston community. Make informed choices about genre presentation based on given rhetorical situations. Implement multiple research methodologies, including: field work, visual documentation, theoretical analysis, and rhetorical interpretations of texts. Use research to create professional public documents in a variety of genres including: rhetorical analysis, personal memoir, commentary, letters, informed reports and fact sheets.
Research Methods Student Work Student Roles Civic Reflections Facilitators Volunteer Projects Volunteers Class readings Students Writing Assignments Reporters, Memoirists, Magazine Project Scholars, Citizens… Magazine writers, editors, photographers, designers Elizabeth Parfitt
Civic Reflections Student-facilitated discussions based on intellectual and artistic readings meant to foster an open dialogue about what it means to be civically engaged, an active citizen, and a community leader. These conversations promoted inquiry into one of our biggest research questions this semester: what does it mean to be civically engaged? Sample Readings: “The Drum Major Instinct,” Martin Luther King, Jr. “The Unknown Citizen,” W.H. Auden “ A Bed For The Night,” Bertolt Brecht “Fellowship,” Franz Kafka “Theme for English B,” Langston Hughes Elizabeth Parfitt
Boston Cares “Boston Cares is a member of the HandsOn Network and Points of Light Institute, an international organization which inspires, equips, and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. At the center of the network are 250 affiliates serving 83% of the American population and 12 international communities.” Elizabeth Parfitt
Town and GownPartnershipsEmerson College First-Year Writing ProgramWriting, Literature and Publishing Department Emerson College Office of Service Learning and Community Action Seed Grant Boston Cares Volunteering and Project Management Jeannie Harrell, Emerson College Senior, Publication Design and Production Editor. Elizabeth Parfitt
Community Involvement Education inWriting Civic Reflection Engagement Class Elizabeth Parfitt
By the Numbers:Research Components and Constraints 14 semester weeks 7 Formal Writing Projects 3 Service Projects per student 3 Written Reflections per student 1 Community Partner for hundreds of non-profit needs 1 Civic Reflection 10-12 hours of service per student Elizabeth Parfitt
A genre-based approach to writing that emphasizes purposeful rhetorical choices Genre: Memoir, Personal Essay, Research Report, Review, Testimonial, Fact Sheet Message (logos) Research Purpose Context Writing Persona: Readers: Formal, Peers, Boston Conversational, Audience Writer Sarcastic, Cares, First-Year (pathos) (ethos) Compassionate, Writing students,Future Employers, Informative, Parents, Friends, Intellectual,Boston Community Elizabeth Parfitt Humorous
Our on-goingconversation… http://www.wordle.net/. Images of Wordles are licensed Creative Commons License. 12
What does an education in Civic Engagement Look Like? Elizabeth Parfitt
Student-driven editorial choices “Exploration involves going to a new place, material or otherwise, and existing there, if only for a few minutes. You’ll come away having not necessarily learned something, but having felt something. In here you will find a report from each of us about our first year at Emerson. Dr. Seuss’s Oh The Places You’ll Go ain’t got nuffin’ on us. Liz looks at bathrooms, Carson explores a film archive, Brendan stares at the sky. Elizabeth Parfitt
Volunteer Reflections “I really felt connected to the group of people at the event, as I am from the area and Drumlin Farm was part of my childhood. It really confirmed for me how important Drumlin Farm is to the community that I come from and “At Xcel GED math tutoring, I got to it felt really rewarding to me to pass on some of my knowledge to give back to a place that had those in need. My class of 15 adult nurtured me when I was young.” students looked to me for answers, a person only about half their age.” Elizabeth Parfitt
City Explorations “I always figured Boston was too conventional a city to cater to my most obscure tastes. I figured I needed to get out of American for that. But of course I was wrong, and The Archive was a place that“Certain aspects of Chinatown almost perfectly fit the radical cinematicmake the area seem like a portal exploration that I like to partakebetween every city that one can travel in.”into and out of at his or her own will…Finding places like Chinatown where Ican feel a little more comfortable isintegral to my survival here in Boston.” Elizabeth Parfitt
One student’s journey throughcivic engagement…“On the surface, I didn’t think playing Trivial Pursuit withsenior citizens at the Hale House would be rewarding. Ireally should know better by now than to underestimate thevalue of service… Out the gate, I felt I was at a critical disadvantage. The Trivial Pursuit edition we played with was from 1985, five years before I was born… This is why we root for the underdog, because they make us feel like anything is possible. One can create the illusion of imperviousness to time. That night the lesson was reinforced for me, that it is easily done, with compassion.” Elizabeth Parfitt
Boston Cares Component for Community Partners…A journey through what itmeans to be American, myculture, and my profession. I learned a lot about myself and got to meet new people. …Make my own change in my community… …they will become inspired to make a difference. Elizabeth Parfitt
What we accomplished… On-going Reflection 40 page online magazine 90+ Volunteer Hours Knowledge of Research, Writing, Rhetorical Awareness, Community Relations, Citizenship, Volunteering, Collaboration Elizabeth Parfitt
As we continue working to straddle the line between scholars and citizens…“We would like to differentiate between what we feel is civic engagement andeffective civic engagement…There has been a tendency among our generation to become what is known as the“me generation.” We implore you to strive to be the “us generation.”We are not asking you to become an activist. We are not asking you to go out andchange the world single handedly. But we as the writers are convinced that byreflecting on the work that we do, you can create a more effective, civicallyengaged community.” Elizabeth Parfitt