Rhetoric and Civic Life (LA101H): A Teaching & Learning Exemplar

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I recently heard about some of the outcomes of one of our Schreyer Institute Teaching Support Grants (TSG).  Veena Raman (Communication Arts & Sciences) and Debra Hawhee (English, Rhetoric) received a grant to conduct an assessment of the innovative interdisciplinary course that integrates elements of Effective Speech (CAS 100) and Rhetoric and Composition (ENGL 15/30) to "develop students skills in composing and delivering purposeful and effective messages, orally, verbally, and digitally" (cf. proposal).  The purpose of the TSG project was to assess the effectiveness of the course material and engagement strategies.

Based on feedback gathered from students, instructors, and the Faculty Senate, the College of the Liberal Arts is now pursuing two linked courses for first-year students, which they propose be required for aspiring Paterno.Fellows and Schreyer Honors Scholars.

The Faculty Advisory Committee of the Schreyer Honors College got just a taste of the course content and activities, but it is impressive.  A couple of things stood out for me, including that this project serves as a great example of:
1) cross-disciplinarity--the project deliberately crosses boundaries that do not support the desired student learning and skills development
2) good pedagogy--by regularly reviewing and tweaking instructional practices to benefit students and instructors. 
3) integration of technology--the course requires students to explore rhetorical writing and thinking using a variety of technological media including blogs, formal writing, videos, podcasts, and speeches.
4) humanities assessment--the project has explicit objectives and the assessments are solidly founded within the ethos of the humanities.  Good examples of assessment practices in the humanities are relatively rare, primarily because Student Learning Outcomes Assessment is new to these disciplines.  Models from disciplines with longer histories with SLOs (engineering, health professions) do not tend to translate well to the humanities.  This project will no doubt help other faculty move from the possible to the actual in humanities learning assessment. 

Kudos to Veena and Debra and to SITE for supporting their efforts.  And I cannot help but note the fluency with which both of these professors use the language of assessment--this is a remarkable accomplishment in just a few years time. We look forward to hearing more in future!
 

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