Generating Buy-In for a Place-Conscious Program


Though all of these processes may prove challenging in their own ways, one of the most challenging aspects of launching place-conscious writing program reforms is getting buy-in from stakeholders such as teaching faculty and institutional or department administrators. One way to get such buy-in may be through class-level or department-level assessment projects which explore the success of place-conscious pilot classes or activities. The rhetorical application of assessment data can be useful to convince other administrative personnel of the efficacy of place-conscious education.

These empirical studies, including quantitative and qualitative data, provide some evidence for the efficacy of place-conscious approaches to writing instruction in different contexts. Such studies can serve as inspiration for assessment projects in your own program, and they can help you show the wider appeal of place-conscious education in the field. These sources may also serve to generate a literature review to help contextualize an assessment project.

Benefits of a Place-Conscious Approach

As Veronica House (2016) and many other scholars of community literacy and community-engaged writing argue, place-conscious approaches to writing instruction can have transformative impacts on local communities. By connecting students with local issues and using local events and histories as sites of inquiry, students can take their work in the FYC classroom and apply it for real and rhetorical action in local setting, whether to bring about policy changes, to communicate for awareness of local issues, or to provide communication and writing services and education for those in need.

This can be useful for a classroom when many or most of the students already live and work in the local community, such as at a community college. However, at institutions with a student body built from an international student pool, students are sometimes not connected directly to the places and communities that are local to the institution of learning. However, everyone’s places and everyone’s localities can still find a home in the composition classroom as sites and sources of inquiry.

One of the greatest benefits of adopting a place-conscious approach is that it could improve “student enthusiasm” (Spelt, Biemas, Tobi, Lunin, and Mulder, 2009, p. 1) for course materials and help “infuse general education classes,” such as first-year composition, “with a sense of relevance” that may enhance “student engagement” with course material (Conz & Diana, 2015, p.3). By making clear, and perhaps even directly encouraging, the direct applicability of FYC course material to extracurricular contexts in students’ lives, students may come to place higher value on their learning in the course and thus be more likely to hold on to what they learn for longer.

Studies of Place-Conscious Education

This material provides a start for proposals, funding requests, development efforts, or any other situation in which you might need to argue for the relevance of a place-conscious approach to your local institution. These are a collection of longitudinal and case studies, both qualitative and quantitative, which may be helpful in arguing for support of a place-conscious approach in your writing program. These sources may inform a brief literature review, provide further source for exploration, or provide a model for an assessment project of your own. Either way, these are a starting point from which to craft and rhetorically employ assessment projects (Harrington, 2016) regarding the benefits of place-conscious approaches in your program.

Conz, B. W., & Diana, V. H. (2015). Keeping it real and getting muddy: First-Year composition meets physical geography in Stanley Park. Double Helix 3, 1-15.

Esposito, L. (2012). Where to begin? Using place-based writing to connect students with their local communities. The English Journal 101(4), 70-76.

Henry, J., Ka’alele, S., Shea, L., & Wiggins, C. (2016). Teaching the liberal arts across the disciplines through place-based writing. Currents.

Jackson, R. C. (2014). Locating Oklahoma: Critical regionalism and transrhetorical analysis in the composition classroom. College Composition and Communication 66(2), 301-326.

Ruday, S., & Azano, A. P. (2019). Arguments that matter: A place-based approach to teaching argument writing to rural students. Journal of Teaching Writing 34(1), 1-23.

Shepley, N. (2009). Places of composition: Writing contexts in Appalachian Ohio. Composition Studies 37(2), 75-90.