In all her teaching, Roz Spafford honours the principles of Paulo Freire, loosely translated: to help students locate themselves in their own fields and to identify and analyze the issues of concern for themselves and their communities.  As Freire vividly demonstrated in Cultural Action for Freedom (1970), students’ literacy is enhanced when the content of what they study is connected to their everyday concerns. As they do research on questions that are important to them, they become more deeply thoughtful about them and more capable of engaging critically in the world. Her academic writing courses invite students to articulate and investigate the issues that preoccupy their communities, thereby advancing their research and analytical skills. Her journalism courses examine the structures of various kinds of nonfiction writing and look at the consequences of these structures for how readers understand the world. Her creative writing courses help students to see literary canons as constructed, not given, and to decide how to engage them—or not.

Just as Freire’s adult students came to see their living conditions as produced by culture, not “natural,” in these courses students come to see “good writing” as contextual–a product of audiences’ expectations, publishers’ needs, cultural conventions. They can thus shape their own writing in relation to the audiences they envision and the situations in which they expect to be read.

The following syllabus for an introductory writing course is an example of this kind of course. Feel free to borrow it; even better, become a “cultural worker” in your own classroom and find out from your students what they have on their minds.

In this section:
Writing 2: Researching Ourselves