Phase 3: Sharing Local Inquiry with Public Audience
In the final phase of the course, students will apply the inquiry and writing practices and strategies they have been using in the course as well as learn and develop additional research methods and writing skills. Up to this point in the course, we have focused our inquiry on questions related to climate change. We hope students have begun to understand how critical inquiry into significant questions crosses disciplinary boundaries. As students investigated their issue across a variety of disciplines, we expect that they learned to develop a repertoire of strategies for considering purpose and audience.
In Phase 2, students had a chance to see how conversations about significant issues occur in layered contexts that are interrelated, much like an ecosystem. Phase 3 asks students to explore the local ecosystem of the CSU campus and surrounding community, focusing on sites of academic, social, cultural, recreational, political or personal interest to new students at the university. In this unit, we ask students to investigate a site of interest--a course, an academic program, a service, an activity, an organization—and explain the results to inform new students about it. Based on their investigation of the site and evaluation of its value to new students, students will then write an argument to promote the site to other students, to address a problem with the site, or to effect change.
This version of the assignment can be replaced, however, with other projects that ask students to use a variety of research methodologies (including field research) to inquire into and report on a site or subject and then contribute an argument on that subject to the conversation on it. See the appendix for one such possible alternative. To achieve the goals of Phase 3, such alternatives need to ask students to write two texts for different rhetorical situations about the same site or subject, to expand inquiry to include field research, and to ask students to include a rhetorical analysis of the two texts they've written. While maintaining a local focus is not necessary, some component of the rhetorical situation should be local.
In Phase 3, students will apply inquiry strategies practiced to-date by choosing a site of interest, formulating inquiry questions and finding and selecting sources of information. While they may use library resources in some cases, their inquiry will focus on field research, such as interviewing, observing and surveys. In Phase 3, we help students develop effective field research skills, such as developing questions, choosing appropriate methods, gathering information, and note-taking. As the report of their investigation will be written for a specific audience, we will also help students define and address yet another audience.
Writing the Public Audience Argument will give students the opportunity to solve a complex rhetorical problem, i.e. they will need to identify a debatable issue, determine the purpose for the argument and target an appropriate audience as well as choose effective strategies for achieving their purpose with their intended audience. Focusing on a problem or concern discovered during the investigation of the site or on the need to raise awareness about it, students can build on the strategies for academic argument they learned and practiced in Phase 2. By asking students to take their concerns public, we hope they will have a positive experience of writing as engaged and informed citizens of the CSU community to address matters of local concern.