IDEAL Projects are model assignments that instructors can adopt or adapt for a classroom assignment. Descriptions and resources are included for individual projects.

Instructors planning to teach any project included here should notify IDEAL before they begin so that we can provide support.

The IDEAL Semester

This tailored semester includes all IDEAL projects and is designed to use when teaching the Rhetoric curriculum. The projects and assignments promote deep and multifaceted student learning in the crucial skills of writing, reading, speaking, and listening across the core assignments of Rhetoric: rhetorical analysis, understanding diverse perspectives, and creating informed persuasion. Students also learn civic responsibility, information literacy, multimodal composition, and collaboration skills.


Collaborators: Brittney Thomas

Show What You Know is a perfect ice breaker in the early weeks of a rhetoric course. It serves as a low-stakes assignment that helps students practice and gain confidence speaking in public while introducing them to critical research skills. The assignment asks students to teach their classmates something they know how to do or give a demonstration of a skill they think classmates would want to learn.

Each class will select the best “Show What You Know” presentation by secret ballot. The winner from each class will be invited to deliver their Show What You Know in the Library Learning Commons in a special public event with publicity and catering. This year’s Show What You Know showcase event was held on Wednesday, September 13 from 6-8p.m. in the Main Library Learning Commons, open area D.

Students completing the “Research & Evaluating Sources” module will also have the opportunity to have their work entered into the Wikipedia Challenge. Winners from the challenge will be announced at the Show What You Know public event.

Classroom resources:


This assignment asks students to delve into the world of primary source material. Students transcribe a document in the University of Iowa Libraries’ DIY History project. These transcriptions make handwritten documents computer searchable and further the Libraries’ efforts to publicize these materials.

Students then hone research skills and skills of rhetorical analysis by composing a blog post, screencast, and presentation that demonstrate the document’s rhetorical construction and its place in history. This assignment invites students to consider the world out of which the document arose.

Visit the UI Library’s DIY History libguide for tips on researching archive material and for excellent resources to assist and guide students’ research process.

Tips for composing your video presentation

  • Instructions for making a Ken Burns effect video with iMovie
  • Instructions for making a Ken Burns effect video with PhotoStory3
  • Instructions for making a Ken Burns effect video for Adobe Premiere

Classroom resources:


Iowa Narratives Project (INP) combines the principles of composition with public engagement skills and digital technology. Working in groups, students first compose an in-depth report about a public space (Rhetoric of a Public Space). Students then seek out a story rooted in the public sphere that deserves wider recognition. Students learn about the context of the story and conduct research, including interviewing people for whom the narrative is important. They then construct a digital record of their findings and compose a brief podcast essay accompanied by photographs.

The IDEAL team will help you articulate your own teaching and learning objectives and will facilitate your work with the Iowa Narratives Project. Most instructors begin by assigning the Rhetoric of a Public Space report assignment and then follow up with the Iowa Narratives Project (documents for both included below) as a capstone project at the end of the semester.

Providing a Comprehensive Portrait of Iowa City

An objective of the Iowa Narratives Project is to provide a comprehensive depiction of our environment, so IDEAL encourages students to focus their projects on revealing new things about the Iowa City landscape. Paramount to this goal is that students survey sites that have yet to be examined by a previous INP.

Please view the Previously Examined Sites and Previously Interviewed Subjects document included here and encourage students to choose new sites so we are not unduly burdening area businesses, organizations, and people that have been featured previously.

INP Previously Examined Sites and Interviewees (PDF)

Technology Concerns

Audacity is a free and open source software that provides relatively strong audio mixing tools. Audacity tutorials are available at

Students can use laptops, smartphones, or other devices to record audio. IDEAL can also help students with access to high quality digital recording devices. Find information about checking out recording devices in the Technology Check Out section.

Classroom resources:


This lesson serves as the first major written assignment in a Rhetoric course.  It asks students to find a rhetorical artifact related to a knowledge community within their local environment—be that the University of Iowa campus or Iowa City at large.  They then analyze the rhetorical effect of that artifact using the terms and concepts they have learned throughout the beginning of the course.

Classroom resources:


Collaborators: Katie Hassman, Cathy Cranston, Kathy Magarrell

Information literacy is the foundation of academic research and thus an integral part of every university student’s college experience.

Information literacy skills include everything from learning how to locate, evaluate, and cite information resources (online, print, etc.) to understanding that authority is constructed and contextual. Librarians are information literacy experts and the resources available here a product of collaboration with University of Iowa Librarians. The resources are centered on the following six frames developed by the Association of College and Research Libraries:

  • authority is constructed and contextual
  • information creation as a process
  • information has value
  • research as inquiry
  • scholarship as conversation
  • searching as strategic exploration.

The Undergraduate Engagement Librarians in the University Libraries, Katie Hassman and Cathy Cranston, collaborated with IDEAL to design these classroom-ready materials to help assist in teaching information literacy. The following documents contain two assignments that engage the concept of knowledge communities (Personal Knowledge Communities & Exploring Communities) as well as an “A La Carte” of stand-alone, information literacy focused activities to be used at any point in the semester. Instructors are encouraged to collaborate with university librarians in order to integrate excellent information literacy teaching strategies into their lessons. If you would like to collaborate on an assignment idea, please get in touch.

Classroom resources:


Collaborators: Lori Adams, Brinda Shetty

This project was developed in conjunction with the Latham Science Engagement Initiative (, which allows undergraduate fellows in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields an opportunity to hone their research science communication skills through individually-designed public engagement projects.

Latham Fellows in Science Communication and Engagement will distinguish themselves from others doing undergraduate research by:

  • Strengthening broader impact and intellectual merit statements through creation and implementation of their own broader impact activities, making students more competitive for national merit scholarships such as the NSF GRFP and Goldwater Scholarships.
  • Experiencing the strength of interdisciplinary interactions through exposure to research in other disciplines and working collaboratively with students across majors in the sciences on group projects.
  • Developing fluency in communicating science to diverse audiences in the community.

Technology Concerns

IDEAL can help students with access to high quality digital audio and video recording devices. Students may arrange device check out by emailing

Audacity is a free and open source software that provides relatively strong audio mixing tools. Audacity tutorials are available at


Collaborators: Sonja Mayrhofer (Rhetoric), Ashley Wells (Rhetoric), Brittany Borghi (IDEAL), Hancher, University of Iowa Research and Library Instruction

Homepage image: Iranian glazed ceramic tile work, from the ceiling of the Tomb of Hafez in Shiraz, Iran. Province of Fars. (Credit: Pentocelo)

Hancher’s Embracing Complexity project is a “multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to building understanding of contemporary Islamic cultures and Muslim identity.” To complement these efforts, the Department of Rhetoric and IDEAL have partnered with Hancher and the UI Libraries Research and Library Instruction to create curriculum that will support the project. This curriculum engages with the issues and themes within modern Muslim culture through the work of Muslim artists, including G. Willow Wilson whose memoir The Butterfly Mosque is the One Book, One Community selection for 2017.

The goal of this interdisciplinary curriculum is to — as the title suggests — help students embrace the complexity of global citizenry through rhetorical analysis, informed argumentation, and responsible advocacy. Ultimately, we hope to share in Hancher’s efforts “to build textured knowledge of Islamic cultures, while creating a greater sense of empathy for the experiences of peoples of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds” (Hancher).

The Embracing Complexity: Rhetoric of Identities & Communities Project offers this curriculum for instructors to use as they see fit. There is an entire course plan or more individual units to choose from, as well as two reading schedules. One reading schedule features some academic articles and another features web sources to allow instructors the freedom to decide what they would like students to be tackling.

Instructors should make the syllabus their own in terms of language and policy and decide on the featured nonfiction book — The Butterfly Mosque or Letters to a Young Muslim. Both work nicely with the curriculum and schedule, and there are notes on the reading schedules to indicate where either of these choices could go.

Each major assignment prompts students to reflect on what they’ve learned about diversity and identity while satisfying course objectives. The first major writing assignment, Rhetorical Analysis – Muslim Experiences in the U.S., focuses on representations of the Muslim American experience. Next, students will be tackling Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal and Ms. Marvel, Volume II: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, one of Hancher’s featured artists. Discovering Our Superpowers, the first major speech assignment, will support their work with the comics. Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, discovers her superpowers while fighting for her local community — students, too, will be discovering their superpowers while considering the varied communities they contribute to. Students will continue building their rhetorical analysis skills through a paper on Persepolis. Instructors have the choice of assigning a Visual Analysis assignment – Representations in Persepolis or an assignment that asks students to contextualize topics found in Persepolis, either of which asks students to hone their research skills in the second major writing assignment. Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash, whether assigned in its entirety or excerpts, inspires the culminating group assignment, Podcast to a (Neighbor), the second major speaking assignment.

Class activities (included below) build toward major assignments by scaffolding concepts and skills. There is also a supplemental reading list with additional texts instructors might be interested in using as they make the course their own. This list also indicates how you might use excerpts from The Butterfly Mosque.

Class activities:

Instructors can contact IDEAL, Sonja Mayrhofer, or Ashley Wells for assistance in adapting the curriculum to their course schedules. IDEAL can also assist in implementing technology in the classroom.

Embracing Complexity Essay One: Rhetorical Analysis

This assignment develops keen rhetorical analysis skills while prompting students to consider representations of Muslim Americans in popular media, ultimately confronting traditional stereotypes.

Embracing Complexity Speech One: Discovering Our Superpowers

Here, students will make a connection between what they’re reading and who they are while investigating how they contribute to their very community.

Embracing Complexity Essay Two: Placing Persepolis in Context

This assignment builds research strategies while asking students to investigate an issue of importance inspired by their reading of Persepolis.

Embracing Complexity Essay Two: Persepolis Visual Analysis

For instructors focusing on visual rhetoric, this assignment prompts students to complicate images they observe in both their reading of Persepolis and the world around them.

Embracing Complexity Speech Two: Podcast to a (Neighbor)

Based on their reading of Omar Saif Ghobash’s Letter to a Young Muslim, students find themselves penning a podcast aimed at a set of issues within their shared communities, flexing their digital skills and advocating for solutions.



Collaborators: Anne Sand, Matthew Houdek, Naomi Greyser, Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP), Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC), Nikki White (visualizations)

In light of the recent reports about the prevalence of campus sexual assault, the University of Iowa is seeking ways to teach about consent and sexual assault prevention. The Campus Culture Project is a trajectory of lessons or short, in-class activities that prompt students to think about sexual assault and the cultural narratives that surround it. Split into two flexible curriculum tracks (Gender & Sexuality and Rape Culture), the project also includes student-generated data that becomes a visualization about the attitudes towards sex on their campus, as well as Bystander Intervention Training to help students make their communities safer.

The lessons are specific enough to teach sexual assault prevention in a focused, meaningful way, while flexible enough to be incorporated into many different course schedules. The end goal of the lessons is for students to make a commitment to changing the campus culture surrounding sex, and publishing their commitments for other students to see, and hopefully emulate.

See the curriculum materials in the documents below and on the Campus Culture Project WordPress site.

Additional classroom resources:

Notify IDEAL if you intend to use the curriculum so that we can provide appropriate support.

Classroom resources: