Developing a Civic Identity by Designing and Facilitating Public Opportunities for Deliberative Dialogue

  • Lori L. Britt
  • Leanna K. Smithberger


An innovative course at James Madison University seeks to engage students in civic life by starting not with specific public and political issues but by engaging communication majors in creating spaces for public talk about complex and value-laden issues. This course supports a campus–community program whose goal is to help the campus and local communities productively address difficult issues. In this chapter, the authors illustrate how students research public issues, study design processes, and facilitate deliberative dialogue. As they engaged in shaping processes that encourage others to enact citizenship, students realized that they, themselves, play a vital role in civic life.


  1. Asen, R. (2013). Deliberation and trust. Argumentation and Advocacy, 50(1), 2–17.Google Scholar
  2. Carcasson, M. (2010). Facilitating democracy: Centers and institutes of public deliberation and collaborative problem solving. New Directions for Higher Education, 152, 51–57. doi: 10.1002/he.412
  3. Carcasson, M. (2014). The critical role of local centers and institutes in advancing deliberative democracy. Journal of Public Deliberation, 10(1) art. 11. Retrieved from
  4. Dillard, K. N. (2013). Envisioning the role of facilitation in public deliberation. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 41(3), 217–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gastil, J., & Dillard, J. P. (1999). The aims, methods, and effects of deliberative civic education through the National Issues Forums. Communication Education, 48(3), 179–192. doi: 10.1080/03634529909379168 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Harriger, K. J., & McMillan, J. J. (2007). Speaking of politics: Preparing college students for democratic citizenship through deliberative dialogue. Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation Press.Google Scholar
  7. Iyengar, S., & Hahn, K. S. (2009). Red media, blue media: Evidence of ideological selectivity in media use. Journal of Communication, 59(1), 19–39. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2008.01402.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. James Madison University. (n.d.). James Madison University Mission. Retrieved from
  9. Pearce, W. B., & Littlejohn, S. W. (1997). Moral conflict: When social worlds collide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Pearce, W. B., & Pearce, K. A. (2004). Taking a communication perspective on dialogue. In R. Anderson, K. N. Cissna, & L. A. Baxter (Eds.), Dialogue: Theorizing difference in communication studies (pp. 39–56). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Pincock, H. (2012). Does deliberation make better citizens? In T. Nabatchi, J. Gastil, G. M. Weiksner, & M. Leighninger (Eds.), Democracy in motion: Evaluating the practice and impact of deliberative civic engagement (pp. 135–162). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Sprain, L., & Carcasson, M. (2013). Democratic engagement through the ethic of passionate impartiality. Tamara: Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry, 11(4), 13–26.Google Scholar
  13. Tannen, D. (1999). The argument culture: Moving from debate to dialogue. New York, NY: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  14. Waisanen, D. (2014). Toward robust public engagement: The value of deliberative discourse for civil communication. Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 17(2), 287–322. doi: 10.1353/rap.2014.0027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ziering, A. (Producer), & Dick, K. (Director). (2015). The hunting ground [Documentary]. USA: Chain Camera Pictures.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lori L. Britt
    • 1
  • Leanna K. Smithberger
    • 2
  1. 1.James Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of CommunicationUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations