Writing 340: Writing in the Community presents a dynamic experience, as it places writing in a real-world context by partnering USC students with community groups to identify local problems and to use rhetorical tools for addressing these problems. The class is premised on the model of writing with the community, which engages community members as partners rather than subjects or clients, each partner bringing something to learn and something to teach. By recognizing the value of different kinds of knowledge, this class asks all its participants to engage with perspectives outside their realm of experience.
This is an alternatively structured course in terms of contexts of learning and design of assignments. Although the tenets of good writing remain the central focus of the course, the semester culminates in a media-driven, documentary-style final project, which uses writing, research, and personal experience to communicate these issues in a way meaningful to a broader public audience.
A pivotal component of the course is the collaboratively produced, community-based video documentaries. Instructor and co-developer of the course, Stephanie Bowers, explains,
We wanted to do something different, something that would engage the community as partners rather than clients or subjects, each partner bringing something to learn and something to teach. We wanted to challenge rather than confirm the implicit hierarchy that values only the expertise, knowledge and discourse produced by the university. Partnering students with community groups-high schools, nonprofits, juvenile detention facilities-and asking them to collaborate on five-minute documentaries positioned our students as facilitators rather than as experts, engaged in the mutual project of using stories to experience the world through unfamiliar perspectives.
This class appeals to students with a desire to be active participants in their courses and who are interested in innovative approaches to learning. Given its community-based/real-world component, this course would interest students wishing to have a more intimate understanding of those people and issues that are so often the subjects of academic research. Disciplined and open-minded students who are willing to explore creative approaches to fulfilling course requirements should find this curriculum a challenging yet satisfying alternative to more traditional offerings.