Refining Pedagogy to Support Student Learning in a General Education Course: Action Plans for Social Change
Keywords:social change, reflective teaching practice, writing to learn, civic engagement, purposeful writing, policy change
The action plan is the culminating assignment that provides students with the opportunity to apply their semester-long learning about civics, diversity, and ethics to a real-world problem and propose an actionable solution. Students select an authentic genre that serves their purpose best: a letter to someone in a position to help implement their solution or an op-ed for a relevant news source. The goal is to end the semester with a piece of writing they can share and use to advocate for social change. Sara (the first author) uses the assignment in a required course in their university’s general education curriculum. At its essence, the action plan is designed to help undergraduates act as justice-oriented citizens (Westheimer & Kahne, 2004a) who take responsibility for transforming social issues. Sara’s student Hannah (second author) wrote an action plan that led her on a journey with Sara and Heather (third author) to try to change state education policy. In the personal reflection that follows, we explain our journey to enact Hannah’s action plan and detail how Sara used those experiences to refine the assignment to provide authentic learning experiences (e.g. Ritter, 2008; Sisserson, et al., 2002). To promote readability, the essay is written in Sara’s voice, and Hannah and Heather’s insights are presented throughout.