The service-learning writing classroom: A safe haven for articulating difficult stories about whiteness and race

Adam Webb, University of Texas at El Paso


Service-learning is an educational method that is usually examined for its practical applications and outcomes, and can help instructors and students to realize the connective aspect of classroom discussions, assignments, activities and discourses that occur within the community. In this respect, “connective” refers to more than just bridging the distance between the classroom and community using service-learning. Instead, it acts like the “connective human tissue” that unites individuals together. Individuals as biological beings themselves are the connective tissue that unites them linguistically, physically and emotionally. In essence, the connective human tissue that unites individuals together creates an intertwined community through the construction, dispersion and consumption of the discourses and rhetoric(s) they use to consume knowledge(s). In this research, I apply the connective human tissue metaphor to the service-learning writing classroom and how instructors and students can use it to address issues such as race and whiteness. Green (2003), Lietz (2008) and Endres and Gould (2009) have examined race and whiteness within the context of a service-learning writing classroom. More specifically, a writing classroom that incorporates service-learning will have students discussing, expressing and writing about their thoughts and assumptions of race and whiteness in a way where they do not get “bogged down” in the superficial or stereotypical dialogues and representations produced by the consumer culture mentality. I have two main goals, which are 1) to envision and create my Connective and Interwoven Communities (CIC) Model, and 2) to offer new approaches and pedagogies for addressing race and whiteness in the service-learning writing classroom. My research questions are 1) How should race and whiteness be addressed in the service-learning, writing classroom?, 2) How does service-learning, as a pedagogical approach, allow, hinder, or help the writing instructor and students address and explore race and whiteness in the writing classroom?, and 3) What assignments, readings and activities can be used to allow the service-learning writing instructor to address such issues? My research provides and encourages writing instructors to create a variety of pedagogical approaches for the service-learning writing classroom that 1) encourages critical discussions and reflections over race and whiteness, 2) enables students with a sense of agency when writing about their experiences within the community and 3) eventually helps students develop strategies and techniques in using rhetoric to create greater awareness of whiteness and race. In order to understand how issues of race and whiteness play a role in the service-learning writing classroom, I have interviewed six experts within the field of rhetoric & writing studies. The responses provided from these six scholars provide insight into developing further theoretical frameworks for incorporating and analyzing race and whiteness into the service-learning writing classroom.

Subject Area

Language arts|Multicultural Education|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Webb, Adam, "The service-learning writing classroom: A safe haven for articulating difficult stories about whiteness and race" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3565947.