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Public deliberation (Project 2)


An important event in any policy making process is a public hearing. In hearings, lawmakers learn from experts about problems at issue and deliberate action to solve problems.  In the US Congress, committees and subcommittees hold open hearings on all the legislative functions--proposing legislation, authorizing programs and appropriating funds, overseeing administrative agency operations, investigating fraud and abuse, approving executive nominations for office. For the legislative function, holding an open hearing puts an issue on the public agenda.


In project # 2, public deliberation, you will prepare for, then participate in, a simulated Congressional committee open hearing.   Like project #1, problem definition, the current project will be done in phases to prepare, then to perform.   It takes about six weeks to complete.


In project #2, your focus shifts from defining a problem to communicating that problem in a decision-making process.  You’ll put your legislative history research and argumentation outlining to work for you in open public deliberation (simulated).  You will also practice skills of brevity, or clear and concise delivery of statements, questions, and answers to questions.


Practically speaking, the type of activity shifts now.   Now, to make best use of opportunity to publicly communicate your expertise and argment on a chosen issue, you will learn about and practice achieving standards for credibility, clarity, and concision.  Prior knowledge of the subject and a strong argument is not enough.   You must also be able to make your knowledge and argument available and useful in specific communication situations, e.g. the circumstances( including communication protocols) of a Congressional committee hearing.  So, practice in this exercise will emphasize distilling information to essentials ready for brief initial presentation followed by strategic elaboration through question-and-answer opportunities.


 Preview of the exercise:  we’ll simulate deliberation in the form of an open public hearing jointly held by Congressional committees with overlapping jurisdictions to set their legislative agendas for the next session.   As we did in project #1, we’ll work in stages up to the final, simulated event.  At each stage, you’ll discuss observations and you will get as well as give peer feedback on drafts.



Week 10 Orientation to hearings

• Read Smith (ch. 8 in textbook or “Providing Testimony” on course website).

• Observe hearings (on C-SPAN (one full hearing, and parts of other hearings).  

• Observe hearing clips on course website at Video Resources <>)

• As you observe, reflect on the communication protocols and dynamics of interaction, especially in question-and-answer.   Post your characterization of the communication patterns in your small group forum. Go outside your own forum to browse other forums, in order to learn the range of hearings being observed and the variety of communication patterns observed.


Week 11 Orientation to hearings on your chosen problem

• Research a committee or sub-committee with jurisdiction on your problem.  Choose a committee you learned about during your legislative history research. Browse the committee website, subcommittee websites, chair and ranking member's websites.

• Observe hearings held by that committee or subcommittee (access on C-SPAN, or committee website archives, or in print transcript of hearing housed in the government documents division of Joyner Library or a university library near you). Post your observations in small group forums.   Browse other forums.

•Role play:  Imagine yourself playing the role of committee chair or member, and of witness representing an advocacy organization. Select an actual or imagined character as member, and as witness. Choose each from the rhetorical situation (audience/purpose) for which you defined the problem in project #1.

• Draft a 500-word (maximum) opening statement (as if you are the chair, or a member) for a hearing to be held on your problem.

• Draft a 500-word (maximum) testimony statement (as if you are a witness) to be presented in the hearing.  

•Post both drafts in your small group forum.


Week 12 Writing clearly, concisely, and speakably

• Read Williams (textbook Basics of Clarity and Grace, as assigned)

• Do sentence revision exercises (as assigned).  Get and give feedback on drafts (focus on clarity and concision)

• Revise drafts (reduce to @ 300 words)


Week 13 Joint Hearing of Senate Committees on (TBA)

Ground rules:
Each hearing will last three days (simulating 3 hours, a typical duration). Hearings will be held in discussion forums. They will be open for posting from 7AM to 10PM on each day. You are not expected to stay in the hearing all day. People come and go during hearings, as you’ve noticed. Rather, you are expected to post specified products on specified days (see schedule below). The specifications follow the usual order of events in a hearing: statements (day one), questions and answers (days two and three).

On any day, post as early as you can. Check back frequently to follow the deliberation and plan your interaction with other participants (to plan questions, to plan answers). Read all postings so that you engage others and link your concerns with theirs. Members, that means questioning witnesses to relate your and their interests. Witnesses, that means answering questions to relate your and the questioning member’s interests.

Postings begin at 7 AM. All postings for the day are due by 10 PM.

• Only participants can post in a hearing. (Observers do not post.)
• Post early in the day (as early as you can, to enable others to interact with you)
• Post specified products on specified days:
Day One--statements (as member, and as witness)
Days Two and Three--questions (as member) and answers (as witnesses).

It is very important to stick with this schedule. No substitutions, no extensions. For this exercise to work well, the program must be followed. Please plan accordingly.


Due dates: Specified posting days (in Syllabus schedule) are your due dates for this exercise.


Summary of required products:

In your role as committee member:
1 opening statement
Questions for any witness or several witnesses (your choice of witness (es))

In your role as witness:
1 testimony statement
Answer to any member’s question or follow-up questions (if you get follow-up questions)

Statements, questions, answers are graded products of the public deliberation assignment.

• 300 word limit for each statement

• 100-200 words limit for each question and each answer

• statement has a 1-2 sentence ‘message’ (distilled main point) placed early in the statement
• statement includes contents that are carefully selected to:
- politely acknowledge the occasion and link the hearing’s purpose to the issue of concern
- introduce the issue, providing only key details intended to prompt discussion of the issue
- say specifically why the issue matters
- say specifically what action is desired
- stop

• questions and answers relate to (elaborate, bring out dimensions of) prior statements
(do not introduce unrelated topics in a question or answer)

• questions exhibit types usually asked in legislative hearings-- friendly, leading, or challenging

• answers respond to the question asked, then relate it to the witness’s message

Note: Check the Troubleshoot forum and your email inboxes on hearing days for updates and tips


Week 14 Joint Hearing of House of Representatives Committees on (TBA)

• same instructions as for previous hearing


Week 15 Debriefing and Evaluation






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