The course was assigned to Hayden before the presidential primary was over. She therefore accounted for the fact that Clinton may not win the nomination in the course description. She focused instead on how the course would analyze the role of gender in Clinton's two presidential campaigns. Had she not won the nomination, the course would look back on her campaigns as well as analyze the impact it had on the Trump vs. Sanders election. Knowing the class would be an introduction to rhetorical concepts for some of the students, Hayden sought to show students the applicability of rhetorical concepts, particularly feminist rhetorical analysis, through analysis of Clinton's campaign and election rhetoric. The class was also intended to give students more engagement in analyzing the election.
To foster this engagement, Hayden decided to crowdsource the syllabus for the course and include students in the decisions on the outcomes of the course. Iris Finkel, who had worked with Hayden on her use of archives and technology, agreed to embed in the course and help Hayden take the course in a digital humanities direction. The result of this crowdsourcing of the syllabus, Finkel's collaboration as the embedded librarian, and the move towards more digital scholarship enacted an open pedagogy.
While many definitions of open pedagogy have linked it to the use of open educational resources (OER), open pedagogy can mean the kind of pedagogy described in this essay where the materials are free, but not necessarily OER, and the class is "learner-directed" (DeRosa & Robison, 2017, p. 117). What we created may not quite fit the standard definition of OER in the sense that it can be reused and remixed; however, the collection of material was student-generated. Also, not all of the material posted by students is open; some material must be accessed through the library. Many of the principles behind the approach to the course and the connections we made in the course do, however, fit a definition of open pedagogy. Bronwyn Hegarty (2015) has listed eight qualities of open pedagogy that fit our approach to the course:
For Hegarty, these attributes involve creating and sharing of OER among professionals. In this webtext, however, we consider these attributes the outcomes for student learning that emerged from the course.
This approach seemed especially important in the fall 2016 semester because rhetorical texts and rhetorical scholarship concerning the election continually updated. Robin DeRosa and Scott Robison (2017) have highlighted the currency and mutability of open pedagogy. They also noted how open pedagogy can change the relationship students have to their course materials and to knowledge building (p. 117). Their concept of open pedagogy fits what rhetoric and composition scholars have found beneficial about digital pedagogies and digital writing: students are knowledge producers rather than knowledge consumers and present their work to larger publics.
Hayden's plan for the course expanded several approaches she had used in other classes. When she planned the course, she was unaware of the scholarship on open pedagogy and of DeRosa's work, but what she ended up incorporating into the course was similar in approach and outcomes. It resulted in our rethinking of both collaboration and academic scholarship through the authorship of this text.
What has been called the "rise of the crowd-sourced syllabus" (Caldwell, 2016) has included the Charleston syllabus (African American Intellectual History Society, 2015); the Ferguson syllabus (Sociologists for Justice, 2016); and not one but two Trump syllabi: one from The Chronicle of Higher Education ("Trump 101," 2016) and a second, Trump 2.0 syllabus, designed to correct the gaps of the first Trump syllabus to "[explore] Donald Trump's rise as a product of the American lineage of racism, sexism, nativism, and imperialism" (Connolly & Blain, 2016). (The Chronicle noted and apologized for the omission of work by scholars of color on its syllabus since publication.) These syllabi have invited visitors to participate in the discussion through their readings and educators to adapt the syllabi for other courses.
The 2016 election certainly provided material to fill any number of syllabi on race (Connolly & Blain, 2016), rape culture (Ciolkowski, 2016), and women's rhetoric, among other topics. Since Hayden wanted to keep the syllabus changeable and current, she decided to turn the syllabus over to the students. Hayden chose the readings for the first few course sessions only; the rest of the semester, students chose the readings as part of our crowdsourced syllabus. The parameters for the readings fit into four categories:
I. Clinton as Rhetor: texts authored by Clinton in the form of transcripts of speeches, videos, tweets, and interviews, such as her 1995 "Women's Rights Are Human Rights" speech in Beijing, China.
II. Clinton as Subject: texts by supporters or opponents focusing on analysis that can be in the form of speeches, videos, storified tweets, news articles, or opinion articles. An excerpt from Rebecca Traister's (2010) study of the 2008 election, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women began this category.
III. Context of Clinton: texts to give us a foundation to discuss her historic candidacy from the context of women's rhetoric such as The Declaration of Sentiments (1848), a clip from the documentary Miss Representation (Newsom, 2011), Sarah Palin's 2008 speech at the Republican National Convention, and Shirley Chisholm's 1972 announcement that she was running for president.
IV. Rhetoricians on Clinton: rhetorical analysis from a rhetoric or communication journal, such as the Karlyn Kohrs Campbell (1998) article on "Hating Hillary."
Adding readings to a crowdsourced syllabus expanded an assignment Hayden has used in the rhetoric courses she has taught, such as History of Rhetoric, Rhetorical Criticism, or Women's Rhetorical Theory and Practice. In these courses, she has assigned each student to contribute one example of a text for analysis to apply assigned theoretical readings; this contribution of an SST (Student-Selected Text) counts for a small fraction of the final grade. In the Clinton class, all texts but the first few were chosen by students. The course WordPress site, Hillary Clinton and Beyond, allowed all students to create posts and post readings to the site.
We created a schedule that all students could edit, so they knew which readings to read for each day. The students who were honors students or graduate students were additionally assigned to contribute at least one academic article to the syllabus.
The drawback of this approach was that we may be discussing several different issues in a class session, as opposed to a syllabus organized by theme. However, sometimes the readings unintentionally seemed to align, such as on Wednesday, October 5, when the readings were the Between Two Ferns interview with Clinton (Funny or Die, 2016), Clinton's appearance on Broad City (Comedy Central, 2016), and a video illustrating the "rebranding" of Clinton (Frontline PBS, 2016)—all readings where relatability was the theme and/or outcome—and on November 7, where we examined the role of sexism in the media narrative on whether Clinton could be trusted. One student decided to rearrange the syllabus to reflect how she would teach it in the future for her final project for the course.
In addition to providing readings for the course, we collaborated on the course description and goals during the first week of class. Groups decided on guiding questions and shared them with the class as we wrote the description and goals in class, with everyone approving the final result. Examples of our guiding questions included: How does her persona as a rhetor fit with the personas she is assigned by others? How is her historic candidacy shaped by a legacy of women's rhetoric? Why is the language about female politicians different than about male, particularly as regards to family, feelings, and appearance? How might Clinton downplaying or emphasizing her femininity change or impact her rhetoric? We added a disciplinary question (from James Wheaton, the political science major) on how studying Clinton from the point of view of feminist rhetorical studies was different from other lenses we could apply. We also collaborated on a course summation post on the final day of class where we discussed how we explored the questions of the course through the readings and assignments. The questions reflect the course focus on analyzing the role of gender in Clinton's campaign and learning about gendered rhetoric from that analysis rather than focusing on critiquing her beliefs or voicing support.
We were aided throughout the semester by Finkel, a librarian versed in digital humanities who embedded into the course. For this course and a previous archival research seminar in fall 2015, Hayden and Finkel implemented an embedded librarian model that expands the definition and role of the embedded librarian.
For some, an embedded librarian is defined as someone who collaborates with disciplinary faculty on a few library sessions teaching information literacy, going beyond the "one-shot" library instruction model. An embedded librarian can also reside in an academic department. While there, she can be on hand for both faculty and students in the department and can set up office hours. Librarians can embed in a physical classroom or virtually in a learning management system. Our approach to embedded librarianship fits Jezmynne Dene's (2011) definition, which has framed the librarian role as "an integral part to the whole" (p. 225), and is based on the model described by Kathleen Hanggi and Alison Valk (2014), with Finkel as an active partner in the class throughout the semester. Along with attending classes, suggesting readings and resources, giving feedback on assignments, and working with students both in classroom group work and individual consultations, Finkel researched online tools to recommend to students for their projects and provided guidance on the use of those tools.
Finkel's work in digital humanities both informed and was informed by the approach to the crowdsourced syllabus and digital writing assignments in the Clinton course. Though digital humanities is not traditionally a focus of library scholarship or instruction, more librarians have been seeing the need to collaborate with disciplinary faculty to create effective digital experiences for students, and to help students create their own digital scholarship.
Brandon Locke and Kristen Mapes (2016) have offered a helpful way of situating Finkel and Hayden's approach: "Courses in the Digital Humanities curriculum strongly reflect key aspects of digital humanities in libraries, including open access, sustainable formats and tools, archives and archival theory, data sharing, information ethics, metadata, openness, and digital publication." Finkel would often attend class for a lesson where we would benefit from focused information literacy direction or discussions of digital writing. She attended these sessions not to give a presentation but to join our group discussions—to address questions on primary and secondary research, discuss topics with students to help with focus, and assist with the selection and mechanics of digital tools. Finkel provided feedback both to Hayden and the students on assignments, contributing virtually by following blog posts and stepping in to comment or offer suggestions. Interestingly, students utilized Finkel as a resource more for her expertise in digital scholarship than in research and information literacy.
Finkel has interpreted this model of the embedded librarian as more proactive versus the traditional librarian role as reactive. While the traditional role of the librarian has often been to intervene when students are struggling, the proactive role anticipates those struggles through assignment and lesson design and establishes relationships with students prior to their research. Thus, students take a more proactive than reactive role in this model of embedded librarianship as well. Finkel has found that students readily reach out when the librarian is in class (proactive), but may not seek out librarian assistance independently (passive).
An embedded librarian can work with students who would otherwise not seek assistance from a librarian. As Michelle Reale (2016) has attested, students often need guidance not only on research and information literacy skills, but also on what to ask a librarian and how a librarian can be a resource. This embedded librarian model brought Finkel new challenges in working with students and helping them realize how her expertise could be a resource for them.
For example, Finkel helped students choose the best platform to express what they wanted to do. For a student who wanted to create a timeline on Clinton's rhetorical appeals, Finkel suggested Tiki-Toki. Julia Canzoneri wanted to analyze Twitter threads and Finkel guided her with search techniques used in Twitter. Rather than overwhelm students with a list of tool options, Finkel suggested tools that best met students' project goals and technology comfort level. Students were comfortable creating videos on their own and uploading to YouTube. They used existing memes and created their own without the aid of meme-making tools.
Though librarians, embedded or otherwise, may not usually be considered integral to open or digital pedagogies, we found that Finkel's approach and the work resulting from her assistance highlighted the values of open pedagogy, such as collaboration and interaction. Overall, Finkel felt her conversation with students about their use of library resources encouraged them to learn more about other resources—and has modeled research as a conversation and collaboration. In our collaboration, we—Hayden and the students—established a collaborative relationship with Finkel that positioned her not as the librarian who cames in occasionally and showed us how to do research but as another peer and member of our scholarly community.
The decision to create a site through WordPress and make all assignments digital led to conversations on digital writing that often mirrored the conversations occurring in the election. The style of social media posts was used for both communications from the candidates and communications about the candidates. Digital writing produced both election rhetoric and election analysis in both popular and academic contexts.
However, some students can be resistant to thinking about academic writing in the same context as other forms of digital writing. Yet, we see the importance of digital platforms to produce writing that makes the work—of analysis and, later, of activism—of the course public. We can feel uncomfortable with the blend of academic, public, and digital writing required of a blog post. As one student from the 2015 course related: the genre of blogging seems less high stakes than traditional academic writing; she noticed the contradiction inherent in her sentiment when she realized the higher stakes of public writing. As J. Elizabeth Clark (2010) noted, "The instant publishing feature of blogs, however, makes blogs one of the highest stakes (although graded as low stakes) forms of writing that my students do; in a single click, they become authors with the responsibility for what they have written" (p. 34).
The assignments may also subvert our traditional understanding of academic argument. Instead of a thesis-driven traditional essay, we wrote inquiry-driven exploration assignments that invited others to participate in the same inquiry, taking advantage of opportunities provided by public web writing. We aimed to turn the course site into a researchable space through the use of the four categories and student-produced tags. For the synthesis assignment, we reimagined the genre of the literature review. We divided up the tags on the site and each student wrote a synthesis of the conversation among the different readings with the same tag.
For this assignment, you will provide a synthesis of articles on the topic for your final project, a kind of literature review. However, since it is a blog post, it may not look like a traditional literature review.
We will divide the tags of the course blog among the class based on the topics you are considering for the course project; choose tags that may be useful to you, even if they don't encompass your exact topic. In fact, you can rethink your topic/question after writing the synthesis, so don't feel like you are stuck with that topic/question; you can change your mind. The goal of the assignment can even be conceived as finding a new research topic/question for the final project; like the exploration assignment, the synthesis does not have to answer a question but can bring us to new questions.
As we divide the tags, there will be some overlap in terms of people writing on the same articles, and that is okay.
Relate your overall synthesis to the main question found on our guiding questions post: What can studying Hillary Clinton at this particular moment teach us about rhetoric? You can also reference other guiding questions in that post.
What needs to be done in a synthesis? Same as a literature review, you are synthesizing a group of articles on the topic, analyzing how they approach a question, what issues they highlight about that topic, how they are in conversation with one another, where that conversation might go, where the gaps are in that conversation that other researchers can enter, and what overall characterization can we make of the way people have addressed the topic. You may also include student responses as part of the synthesis, as they certainly demonstrate a scholarly conversation on a particular topic or question. Give your classmates credit through hyperlinking.
You should not always organize by source (that is an annotated bibliography), but can organize by topic. You might find it helpful to group the views and arrange that way (as in, supporters of Clinton say X, opponents say Y, rhetoricians concentrate on Z, for example).
The assignment must also include articles/posts in each of the categories: Clinton as Rhetor, Clinton as Subject, Context of Clinton, Rhetoricians on Clinton, and Exploration. It must have all the elements of the course blog posts: web writing format, visuals and other media, hyperlinks rather than MLA citations, links to other blog posts, categories (synthesis as a category and any other(s) that apply), and tags.
The synthesis provided a deeper way to view the content by looking at it through the lens of blog posts on the underlying articles and comments on the posts. The synthesis posts linked to student work on the blog rather than directly to the text the student chose to emphasize the community-based writing practice of the crowdsourced readings. This provided a layered approach. While tags provided structure, we were able to be relatively flexible in the selection of those tags.
When Alex Kreichman asked if he could use student commentary on the posts instead of the articles as the academic conversation he was synthesizing, he brought us another way to explore the genre of the literature review using the class as a scholarly community, which we then incorporated into the assignment instructions (see above).
In reviewing the synthesis posts, Hayden found that students who synthesized each other's work and commentary were often more successful at producing a review of a scholarly conversation than others because the students were actually a part of that conversation rather than the often artificial contexts we are given to enter a conversation with our writing. Though, as Reale (2015) pointed out, "Encouraging our students to begin to converse with themselves, with us, and with each other is far from radical—although in the present climate of tools-based learning, where content knowledge is packed into databases just waiting to be unlocked with an imaginary and magical key, it can seem as though it is." In our course, encouraging a view of undergraduate work as important scholarship and undergraduate students as part of an actual scholarly community was enacted by the digital nature of the course.
Gina Szabady, Crystal Fodrey, and Celeste Del Russo (2016) described "cashing in on the pedagogical currency of creating interactive texts, analyzing emergent media, and deconstructing fast-moving cultural debates" as components of a digital pedagogy. The crowdsourced syllabus gave Hayden the opportunity to enact this pedagogical currency and explicitly, rather than implicitly presenting students with opportunities to develop ownership over their learning. This created a paradigm shift described by Laurie Grobman (2009) and Amy Robillard (2006), who have defined students as scholars whose work makes contributions to the discipline.
In discussing undergraduate research, Grobman and Joyce Kinkead (2010) emphasized that "as active meaning-makers in a scholarly community, students 'develop ownership' of the discipline and apply knowledge gained in the classroom to questions and problems needing answers" (p. xxii). And, we would add, as frequent social media users and digital rhetors, students are often in a better place to theorize rhetoric in these contexts.
Next: DIGITAL SCHOLARSHIP