Coinciding with my own research interests in regional rhetorics, my teaching of writing engages place-based pedagogies to provide a powerful teaching methodology for my students’ explorations of culture. Critical recursive learning happens when my students engage this pedagogy. They no longer see these spaces as static or fixed, but constantly changing. They develop a revised notion of what these concepts mean as they investigate the histories of these spaces and places and their roles within them. My approach to teaching uses place-based learning in three facets: engaging institutional spaces and community places, archival research, and transferrable learning.
Place-based writing encourages students to think about how their institutions and communities engage and interact with one another. Through writing, students are able to articulate their own experiences and histories in places that are already rich in history. I ask students to reflect on the sociological and historical significance of the community where the institution resides through revision, re-envisioning, and embracing their conceptions of the community outside of their university. For example, in my online graduate level course on public rhetorics, I ask students to pick a place of public memory that serves in the memory of their community. They write a seminar-style paper that includes not only the history of the space, but also the rhetorical remembering and use of how the space continues to operate in their communities. Through this research they are able to interact with primary and secondary sources with the space. I encourage them to share this knowledge with local historical societies. Because many of the graduate students are high school or community college teachers, I also have them read several pieces of scholarship on place-based learning in composition classrooms and construct an assignment that involves the local community of their courses. Through this assignment they are able to encourage their own students to identify the importance and significance of place in their own lives.
Archives are also a powerful way for students to interact with the spaces and places where they write and learn. While in Louisville, I partnered with the Williams-Nichols LGBT archives in the library. Students chose an artifact from the archive to write about for their rhetorical analysis paper. By picking these artifacts and reviewing them in class, we formed our own class archive out of the most important ones in the official archive. Through this project students’ understanding of the LGBTQ community in Louisville changed from mostly complete ignorance to an informed, critical understanding of the historiography of this marginalized group. In spring 2019, with the help of a grant by IU Bloomington, I will teach the same themed course here at IU East. In addition to analyzing artifacts, students will help build to our first LGBTQ archive at East This assignment will help both students and community members to recognize and celebrate the often-closeted LGBTQ community in our rural Midwestern city.
While this pedagogy is important, perhaps most important is that students are able to transfer these skills from the university and make those skills work for them after college. Through multiple in-class writings, reflection papers, and end-of-semester portfolio letters, I am able to see how students internalize the learning that is done with the spaces around them. Often, they write about how technology skills will make them even more marketable outside of the university. From group meetings on Google to the ability to create films using iMovie or other movie making software, my students admit that these skills will help them after they leave my classroom and become lifelong writers.