Eco-Administration: Resources toward Developing a Place-Conscious Writing Program


Veronica House (2016) argues that “one of the most important questions community writing and rhetoric scholars can ask is how to better produce, teach, and theorize writing to help our communities catalyze change at the behavioral and policy level” (p. 54). While scholars and writing programs which are already engaged in community writing, community-engaged scholarship, and service learning are in the best position to achieve this outcome of helping communities “catalyze change,” such goals need not be limited only to such programs. By adopting some commitments informed by place-conscious education, all writing programs can work toward not only the improvement of their students and their campus community, but also toward the betterment the broader communities and places in which our institutions operate and in which we and our students live our day-to-day lives.

All writing programs are necessarily context-contingent, building curricular approaches and management models which are responsive to the student populations we work with and the institutional needs of our colleges and universities. But not all writing programs are place-conscious. At a small liberal arts college which values a broad liberal education, a first-year writing program may focus on learning writing by exploring creative works. At a land-grant public university with a strong STEM focus, a first-year writing program may opt to use a WID-based approach to introduce students to the kinds of academic research writing they are likely to encounter in future courses.

Employed at a programmatic level, a place-conscious approach to writing program administration, or an eco-theory of administration, takes this natural tendency of writing programs to respond to contextuality and expands it beyond the walls of the institution, such that the work of writing classes involves and faces out toward the surrounding places and communities which influence and are influenced by the various people who make up the institutional community.

Reforms toward a place-conscious writing program can range in scale and level of commitment. Reforms might take place on a class-by-class basis as instructors and teaching faculty adopt aspects of place-conscious education into their classroom teaching by changing assignments and reading selections. Or, reforms could take place a larger scale by choosing a particular shared focus with which all first-year composition courses engage, as in the program described by House (2016). Even beyond that, place-conscious education could be built into the fabric of the program by reforming learning outcomes with place-conscious goals in mind.

Who This Site Is For

This site offers resources for writing program administrators and composition instructors working at a variety of institutions. Whether you are a WPA who wants to build stronger relationships between your institution and its host community, or an instructor who wants to get students out of the classroom and engaging with real-world topics and writing contexts, there is something here which may inform or inspire productive revision in your programs and classes.

What WPAs Will Find on This Site

Not all of these processes will be covered in this site, since the varying ways in which and degrees to which WPAs might approach these issues will depend on their local context, their personal and programmatic goals, their access to resources, and the amount of time they are able to invest in making programmatic changes. Just as a place-conscious writing program would be acutely aware of and oriented toward the nuances of the specific, local, contextual needs of an institution’s home community, this website is presented in such a way that WPAs (and instructors on a course level) can take what they need and apply it wherever and however they can, enabling WPAs to make small or large programmatic changes toward a more place-conscious writing program that meets the needs and constraints of their local contexts.

On this site, WPAs will find:

  • An overview of place-based and place-conscious education.
  • An overview of several place-conscious and eco models of composition pedagogy.
  • Resources which may facilitate generating buy-in from various campus stakeholders.
  • Guidance toward building intra- and inter-institutional relationships which will facilitate programmatic change.
  • Guidance on the course level for instructors to create place-conscious assignments and personal learning outcomes, which may be used for professional development activities with teaching faculty.
  • Additional resources for both instructor and administrators who want to learn more about place-conscious education.

What Instructors Will Find on This Site

For instructors interested in working toward a place-conscious composition classroom, this site provides a variety of readings, writing, and thinking assignments which can be used directly or adapted into existing curricular frameworks. These assignments aim to teach important threshold concepts of writing studies while at the same time fostering connections between students and communities.

On this site, instructors will find:

  • Potential readings to assign in a place-conscious classroom.
  • Assignment prompts for low-stakes in-class writing, scaffolding homework assignments, and major writing projects.
  • Further reading for you with which to explore the theory and goals of place-conscious approaches to education.