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Words in the World: Developing Social Responsibility through Critical Learning Practices across Language Disciplines
Ethics Conference
  • Elise DuBord, University of Northern Iowa
  • Rachel Morgan, University of Northern Iowa
  • Jeremy Schraffenberger, University of Northern Iowa
  • Adrienne Lamberti, University of Northern Iowa
  • Caroline Ledeboer, University of Northern Iowa
  • Jennifer Cooley, University of Northern Iowa
Presentation Type
Open Access Breakout Session

This panel explores ways that language-related disciplines can promote social responsibility in courses that deliberately connect academic content with hands-on professional and/or service experiences. Panelists will discuss the development of socially minded practices through interdisciplinary projects working with English language learners, food insecurity, environmental conservation, theater, and professional editing. We situate this conversation in broader institutional structures that support the integration of civic engagement in the university curriculum. Non-traditional teaching practices in the community and across disciplinary boundaries allow us to explore these in-between spaces where social change that is often constrained within formal institutions is possible (Mitchell, 2008). Following Mitchell (2008), we argue for a critical pedagogical approach that makes center the ethical dimensions of enacting civic engagement. The learning environments we describe provide spaces for multifaceted development of not only professional skills and abilities, but also socially responsible practices. Shields (2017) has argued that Iowa’s universities must produce “civic-minded professionals” able to “work with those who are different from them, communicate effectively, organize resources, [and] think critically about important issues.” Our work directly acts on the development of socially responsible practices as faculty and students work collaboratively with community partners, preparing students to pursue future careers, and just as importantly, to engage actively, civically, and ethically in their communities.

Presenter 1: This speaker will address the development intercultural communicative competency as a civically minded and socially responsible practice that requires listening, taking on multiple perspectives, and making a personal investment in the felicity of communicative events between speakers of different languages, by discussing students’ reflective writings from multiple civic engagement projects.

Presenter 2: This speaker will discuss embedding longer critical service learning that moves from an indirect to direct model that connects the classroom with a community partner. Through the community partnership, students gain research experience, work with problem-solution models, gain speaking experience, and develop a greater understanding of community and civility.

Presenter 3: Focusing on a service-learning collaboration between the students in an Environmental Literature class at UNI and the Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District, this speaker will explore how hands-on publication and editorial experiences allowed for a space to develop a considered ethical orientation to the land and to connect with people who live and work intimately in their environments.

Presenter 4: This speaker will discuss a recent pilot assignment to demonstrate how editing and managing publications called students’ attention to the impact of their decision-making upon others. Specifically, the speaker consistently used this project as an opportunity to highlight community memberships and responsibility beyond the classroom. What was more largely at stake, for example, when an international student editor wished to correct a U.S. North American student writer’s colloquial English to conventional syntax?

Presenter 5: Work with the August Wilson Festival has been rich in collaboration across disciplinary and community borders, and well-supported by the university. While, originally, its mission was to share the literary richness of Wilson’s plays with local audiences at the university and in the Cedar Valley, the project has allowed me as faculty member an opportunity to align academic interests with personal values, supporting the university’s Community of Practice (Wenger).

Presenter 6: I will explore how institutional models (such as curricular structures paired with co-curricular projects in a public university setting) can support the development of individual civic engagement. Citing examples from projects housed in our department, I will examine the potential for community-based learning to integrate academic, pre-professional, and lifelong learning through critical reflection that leads to ethical growth on an intimate, personal level. References: Mitchell, T. (2008). “Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the Literature to Differentiate Two Models,” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 14(2): 50-65. Shields, E. (2017). What Iowa needs now: Civic-minded professionals. April 28. Des Moines Register. Retrieved from: Wenger, E. and Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Wenger-Trayner. Retrieved from:

Start Date
22-9-2017 12:00 PM
End Date
22-9-2017 12:50 PM
Event Host
Center for Academic Ethics, University of Northern Iowa
Department of Languages and Literatures

Location: University Room, Lower level Maucker Union, University of Northern Iowa

File Format
Citation Information
Elise DuBord, Rachel Morgan, Jeremy Schraffenberger, Adrienne Lamberti, et al.. "Words in the World: Developing Social Responsibility through Critical Learning Practices across Language Disciplines" (2017)
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