Public Discourse: Experiential Training for Citizenship

By Leila Brammer and Sarah Wolter.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In response to a desire to further develop citizenship skills, a new course, Public Discourse, was created to replace Public Speaking as a general education and foundational course in the Communication Studies major at a small liberal arts college. The new course was developed to provide more instruction in departmental emphases of argument, civic engagement, and citizenship. Public Discourse is structured around a semester-long, experiential civic engagement project that culminates in each student taking direct action in the community on an issue of public interest. In order to assess whether the new course was more successful than Public Speaking at fulfilling departmental objectives, questionnaires were distributed to sections of the final semester Public Speaking course and sections of the first semester Public Discourse course. The questionnaire asked for responses on whether (and how) the course developed skill, increased knowledge, increased interest, and resulted in plans for future involvement in civic engagement. Public Discourse students report significant improvements in civic engagement skills, increased knowledge of the methods of and interest in civic engagement, and noteworthy growth in their plans for future civic involvement.

Keywords: Citizenship, Public Discourse, Communication, Argument, Critical Thinking, Civic Involvement, Civic Engagement, Social Justice

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp.307-314. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 583.066KB).

Dr. Leila Brammer

Associate Professor/Chair, Communication Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, USA

Leila Brammer received her M.A. in Communication Studies from Northern Illinois University and her Ph.D. in Rhetoric from the University of Minnesota in 1995. Her scholarly work has focused on social movements, rhetoric/argument, and civic engagement. She is the author of Excluded from Suffrage History: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Nineteenth Century American Feminist. Her present work focuses on the influence of neocolonialism and democratic instability in Fiji. She is also involved in the development and assessment of a new Public Discourse initiative in the Communication Studies Department at Gustavus Adolphus College. Public Discourses utilizes a semester-long experiential, civic engagement project culminating in direct student action in the community to further critical thinking skills, increase knowledge and interest in civic engagement, and enhance and encourage future involvement in the community. She is a member of the National Communication Association and the International Communication Association.

Sarah Wolter

Instructor, Communication Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, USA

Sarah Wolter received her B.A. degree in Communication Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, and her M.A. in Speech Communication at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has been serving as an Instructor in Communication Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College since the 2005-06 academic year. Courses she teaches at Gustavus include Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, The Social Impact of Media on Adolescent Girls, and Public Discourse. Wolter’s research interests are centered on communication and feminist theory with concentration on representations of female athletes in the media and identity as proliferated in interaction. Wolter’s master’s thesis examined the influence of student, colleague, and administrative governing relational communities on the formation and maintenance of professional identity of women Assistant Professors in the Colleges of Arts & Humanities and Social & Behavioral Sciences at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Recent accolades include the Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Speech Communication and College of Arts & Humanities Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award, the Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student from the International Communication Association, and the Woman of Courage and Vision Award from the Commission on the Status of Women at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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