The Office of Faculty Development

Public Sphere Pedagogy

Public Sphere Pedagogy (PSP) moves students' research and creative ideas outside of the classroom by embedding a "public sphere" in first-year courses, moving students from a typical classroom setting to a dialogue-rich environment.  This can come through a face-to-face experience outside of the traditional classroom with public and/or academic experts in their area of study or digital interactions with an interested public audience and/or experts through public-facing blogs or social media posts.  This approach to teaching focuses students' course reading, class discussion, and research efforts on contemporary public issues and places students in dialogue with diverse campus and community members. In public sphere settings, students encounter opportunities to behave as adult participants in processes of dialogue and debate vital to the health of a democracy. PSP aims to increase students' sense of civic efficacy and personal responsibility.

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    Examine selected research on Public Sphere Pedagogy. 

    Goodsett, M., & Gosselin, A. (2017). Increasing Faculty Collaboration and Community Engagement through Critical Librarianship and Public Sphere Pedagogy.

    Nicdao, E. (2020). Q2S Enhancing Pedagogy: Reflections on Teaching SOC3020 Introduction to Community-Based Research.

    Swiencicki, J., Fosen, C., Burton, S., Gonder, J., & Wolf, T. (2011). The Town Hall Meeting: Imagining a Self through Public-Sphere Pedagogy. Liberal Education, 97(2), 40-45.

    Teague, H., Pruett, C., Kyker, C., & Bryan, A. (2016, November). Civic Participation, Public Sphere Pedagogy, and Blended Learning Produce an Intergenerational Town Hall Meeting. In E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (pp. 888-897). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

    Wolf, T., Loker, W. M., Ertle, E., Justus, Z., & Kelly, A. (2016). Being and becoming a college student: Pedagogy as rite of passage. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 48(3), 6-13. in new window)


    Ready to apply Public Sphere Pedagogy to your teaching? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started:

    Look at a current assignment in your class and add a public aspect to it.  The most important aspects of Public Sphere Pedagogy are public dialogue and reflection. So, students can schedule an interview or attend a meeting and ask a question or comment in a public online space.  After this dialogue, students reflect about the answer or conversation and how it relates to their assignment in the class.  

    E.g. students are learning about public policymaking in a class, they generate questions to ask at a City Council Candidate’s Forum that either they can ask or submit them to be asked.  They get the answer and then write a reflection of whether they think the answer represents what they have learned about policymaking and why or why not.  

    E.g. having students consult with a non-profit or corporate leader or team about an issue related to the curriculum.  Bring a leader or team IN to the classroom and have the students formulate questions to ask, then complete a reflection of how the information changed or clarified class concepts.

    The easiest way to get started with Public Sphere Pedagogy is to come to First-Year Experience at Chico State and ask about it!  Come and observe our Town Hall Meeting for POLS 155 or our Sense of Place Symposium for UNIV and U-Courses.  Consider yourself invited!  We can help you decide on the best model for providing students with a valuable experience and even help you with logistics, sources of possible funding, and course (re)design efforts.

    You can start small and consider joining the Sense of Place Symposium that happens on campus each semester as a community member and/or have your students attend as audience members.  We have a team of students who plan that event and collaborate with faculty and staff to offer an interactive experience for your students with campus and community members.