The Policy Brief Assignment: Transferable Skills in Action in a Community-Engaged Writing Project
Prompt A Journal of Academic Writing Assignments
The policy brief assignment in my capstone course in professional writing was designed as a community-engaged project in partnership with a nonprofit organization whose mission is to grow Reading, Pennsylvania's economy. The assignment was intended to do real work in the world: the nonprofit's director, a city council member, and an outreach manager for the city of Reading plan to use the policy briefs to convince Reading's City Council to adopt the recommended policies to enhance citizen
... ipation and representation in local governance and to address deficiencies identified through the STAR Community Rating System(r) (STAR), the nation's leading sustainability framework and certification program (STAR 2016). I welcomed the collaboration and designed the assignment with the goal that students would experience what writing faculty always tell them: fundamental concepts in composition and rhetoric/writing studies are operational in the workplace, and understanding writing and communication rhetorically opens up possibilities for them to enter diverse and unfamiliar writing contexts. Students successfully researched, synthesized, organized, and clearly communicated information in a content area and genre new to them. They presented their policy briefs in written and electronic form to the community partners and explained their work in oral presentations. It was an exciting, nerve-wracking, and challenging endeavor, and, as I will describe, the periods of dissonance led to the best learning experiences--for students and for me.