Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Citizen Scholars
AL 110 Course

Course Overview

The course replaces the Tier I writing course for all incoming CAL majors who commit as aspiring Citizen Scholars. Students will undertake research and writing projects that allow them to engage with democratic discourse through the consideration of social, cultural, and political problems, political processes and the practices of democratic participation and critique, historical movements for social and political justice, and similar topics. The core concerns of the Citizen Scholars program will guide the selection of materials and the interactions of the course, and the five writing projects will similarly reflect the goals of the program. A small group of materials will be taught in all sections of the course, and co-curricular activities and events will augment the normal coursework. Far more than a writing course, this course is designed to establish the basis from which students will build their connections to the program and to their CS student cohort.

The Five Writing Projects

A Learning Narrative Project, a Cultural Artifact Project, a Disciplinary Literacies Project, a Remix Project, and a Reflective Learning Narrative Project, common to all Tier I writing courses, but adapted and shaped to fulfill the aims of the CS Program.

The Learning Narrative Project

Invites students to consider their experiences with learning in and out of school to encourage them to reflect on the relationship between their learning histories and present lives, and to recognize that their experiences both in and out of school can be useful as resources for academic inquiry--even as the narrative itself will eventually become a useful resource for academic inquiry, especially as a resource for the final reflective narrative. For AL/CS 110, students should focus on experiences with social groups, political activities, ethical quandaries, religious communities, cultural institutions, and the like. Students are guided to consider various learning environments and experiences as resources for their ongoing development as critical thinkers and writers. A possible guiding prompt: “Reflect on an experience you’ve had learning in a social group, political activity, religious community, cultural institution, school, etc.”

The Cultural Artifact Project

Invites students to inquire into cultural values in which they are implicated as learners, by choosing an everyday object as the focus of guided exploration. Students in AL/CS 110 should choose an artifact that reflects and/or shapes social, cultural, or political situations, problems, or values. To reflect the variety of approaches in the arts and humanities, the artifact may be drawn from a variety of media including works of art. This project gives them further practice in processes of inquiry (formulating questions and forming theories of cultural value). In this project, students explicitly extend their inquiries into the practices and values of learning revealed in the first project into wider cultural contexts. With this project, they begin to see that research is a process of discovery, for which strategies can be developed, practiced, and extended.

The Disciplinary Literacies Project

Enables students to learn about the literacy practices of a discipline or profession of their choice by looking at textual products as cultural artifacts to understand how the texts of their disciplinary field are cultural and rhetorical. It combines the self-discovery piece of the Learning Memoir with the inquiry process of the Cultural Artifact Project. The Disciplinary Literacies project invites students to continue asking the questions
implicit in the first project: (What am I doing here, and what resources do I bring to the project of my education? What do I need, and how do I achieve my goals?), and to put these in relation to discoveries about the literacies of disciplinary and professional cultures. AL/CS 110 students could be asked to focus on the various communicative practices in the social, cultural, and political realms, or to try to combine such considerations with their intended major. To be inclusive of the creative arts, instructors are encouraged to recognize artistic expression in various forms as a communicative practice.

The Remix Project

Builds on the learning of the first three projects by the making rhetorical moves implicit in these projects the explicit focus of attention. It asks students to create a product that helps them be more aware of the rhetorical moves — of purpose, audience, medium; mode or genre—they make. It invites students to experience and reflect further on processes of invention and arrangement, and further develops inquiries into relationships between rhetorical purposes, audiences, and resources (material, conceptual, and ethical). For AL/CS 110 students, the focus should be on the rhetorical practices of political, cultural, and social problem identification, deliberation, and resolution. The audience could be a community involved in the issue, the public at large, specific stakeholders, or even political office holders. A possible guiding question for the assignment: How can I use my learning and understanding of this political, culture, or social problem to make a positive difference locally, nationally, or globally?

The Reflective Learning Narrative Project

Takes students’ own learning as an object of inquiry. It invites students to reflect on the development and uses of their learning over the course of the semester: to make claims about what they have learned, to set goals for their ongoing learning, to propose the means for achieving those learning goals, and to use the evidence and examples they have created throughout the semester to support each of these types of claims. This assignment builds directly from all of the activities of the semester by inviting students to cite examples from early and final drafts of their assignments, their proposals, their peer-review sessions, their student/teacher conferences, etc. The Reflective Learning Narrative Project is designed to empower students to investigate and celebrate their successes and to make the most of their mistakes by setting goals that emerge from reflecting on their activities that went less well than they had hoped.