Writing at Moravian guest speaker, Ashley Holmes, defined public pedagogy as “an approach to the teaching of writing that values the educative potential for public sites, communities, and persons beyond the boundaries of the traditional classroom and/or campus community” at her April 11th workshop, “Envisioning Possible Publics: Designing & Assigning Public Writing.”

Holmes, an associate professor of English and the director of writing across the curriculum at Georgia State University, was brought to campus by the Writing at Moravian program to discuss public pedagogy and assignment design from her own work in the classroom and from her new book, Public Pedagogy in Composition Studies.

Public writing is a type of writing that is situational: it is connected to a place, a community, and the issues that are current and in need of being addressed.  Implementing public writing into class assignments allows students to consider audiences other than their professors and purposes beyond getting good grades.  As Holmes stated in the workshop, public writing “fosters students’ connection to place and enhances students’ self-confidence and sense of responsibility to address local, public issues.”

Holmes also recognized that there are various levels at which faculty members may feel they want to commit to bringing public writing into the classroom, and that is okay.  There are “low-commitment, low-risk” ways to introduce public writing, such as simply asking students to consider, research, and then write about community-based issues.  Other projects may be more involved, the example provided including a partnership between a writing class and a biology class.  The two classes worked together to conduct interviews with local residents about a nearby watershed, then wrote, published, and distributed a community guide to preserving the watershed.

The inclusion of publication of student work allows students to attribute value to their assignments beyond the grade, and makes them feel that they are making an impact in their community.  Writing in this way also encourages writing transfer, as students are working with sets of conventions that are applicable for audiences and situations outside of school.

Throughout the workshop, faculty and staff were encouraged to brainstorm ideas, voice reservations, and collaborate with each other to generate solutions for potential problems that can arise through incorporating public writing into classes. Given that Moravian College is already committed as an institution to serving the community, Holmes’s workshop will hopefully result in an increased engagement with public issues inside and outside of the classroom.

For more information about the event, please contact Crystal Fodrey, Director of Writing, at fodreyc@moravian.edu.

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