First-Year Experience

Public Sphere Pedagogy Toolkit

The work you and your students do together is too important to stay locked inside a classroom! 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 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.

The toolkit provided here includes a variety of documents, including “how to” guides, calendars, personnel needs, and instructions for community and faculty participants.  The documents are organized by type of public event.  If you have questions about anything in the toolkit, or if you need something that is not in the toolkit as you plan your own PSP course or courses, do not hesitate to contact us.

Town Hall Meeting

The Town Hall Meeting (THM) is our oldest, most proven, and nationally recognized program. In this toolkit you will find information about everything from recruiting community members to making name tags for the event. Our THM takes place within a tight timeframe and this efficiency is reflected in this toolkit, which emphasizes logistical considerations and scheduling. Your version of the THM may look drastically different, but these tools should still be helpful for you.

Chico Great Debate

The Chico Great Debate (CGD) is our largest and longest event, and has been nationally recognized. In this toolkit you will find information to help you in every conceivable area from publicity to moderator instructions. The CGD takes place over the course of 12 hours and incorporates a large number of students and community members, so this toolkit contains a lot of different kinds of logistical information.


The Assessment section of the toolkit will introduce you to some of our most compelling PSP results. Please contact us if you want more detailed information such as actual surveys or narrative reflections.

Your PSP project may model one of these programs or look entirely different. The toolkit is designed to give you an idea of what kinds of documents have been useful for us as you develop a program unique to your campus and community. Both of our major events are remarkable in their own ways. The toolkit is a great start, but we would love to see you at the events. We hope that you can come see us and that you experiment with public sphere pedagogy. We have a great deal to gain and nothing to lose.

To learn more, please watch our Public Sphere Pedagogy Webinar(opens in new window).

If you have any questions about the materials found in these toolkits, please contact the First-Year Experience Program at (530) 898-3705.