Multimodal Pedagogy and Comp: Does the Value Outweigh the Potential Road Bumps?

Multimodal pedagogy both fascinates and terrifies me. I think that it is incredibly interesting to think about the role of rhetoric in modes outside of texts, but it is also difficult to assign mutlimodal projects in the classroom because there are so many skills that can be applied to creating video, audio, and visual projects that do not come into play in traditional texts. The question then becomes, how do teachers grade these projects? I wonder how much video production or image editing can be taught and graded within a composition class.

Although the grading can be messy, I think there is value to multimodal projects. First, they raise students’ awareness of how rhetoric is a part of any form of communication — not just texts. This can help them think more critically about the media they see every day. I also wonder if students have more motivation to create a video or an infographic (as Brooke uses in the “New Media Pedagogy” chapter) than they would a paper. At the MnWE conference a couple weeks ago, I attended a panel on using multimodal pedagogy in first-year composition classrooms, where the panelists actually presented student work. One example was a powerful compilation of interviews, news footage, and protest videos surrounding the Washington Redskins team name controversy. The students who created this project (in a group) utilized language and tone (in their commentary) as well as music and the careful placement of video clips to shape their argument that the team name is racist. The students even posted the video to YouTube. The panelist said that they still did writing through weekly reflections (and other projects, of course), but he found this project to be valuable because students were able to see literacy and rhetoric beyond print.

He also argued that this project was meaningful to his students because they were able to use talents that they normally could not incorporate into a writing class to strengthen their rhetorical skills. This is similar to Brooke’s argument that new media can be a site for experimentation. This leads me into my primary question:

1.) Do you see experimentation with new media as having a place in the composition classroom? What are the benefits as well as complications that come with assigning projects like these?

2.) How would you grade multimodal projects? Would you grade on use of audio or visual components (seeing them as a form of rhetoric), or do you find these skills beyond the scope of a composition classroom?


One thought on “Multimodal Pedagogy and Comp: Does the Value Outweigh the Potential Road Bumps?

  1. The question “How would you grade multimodal projects?” is an excellent question! It is a hot (to my sense) issue in the multimodal camp for the reasons you listed, and because the I-know-it-when-I-see-it assessment, as Cheryl Ball calls it, just doesn’t cut it for the classroom. In her own “Assessing Scholarly Multimedia: A Rhetorical Genre Studies Approach,” Ball draws upon the assessment criteria that Virginia Kuhn developed in “The Components of Scholarly Multimedia.” I can’t access Kuhn’s article, but check out this video ( and its part II ( (and listen to my favorite Radiohead songs—really!) where Kuhn delivers her core criteria. Those criteria are 1) conceptual core, 2) research component, 3) form/content, and 4) creative realization. Some of these criteria may seem vague to us, but I think it’d serve us well to remember how accustomed we are to assessing purely logocentric essays. To help bridge the difference, Warner makes the students themselves use these criteria to evaluate existing multimodal compositions before assessing the students’ work with these criteria. Warner’s class also added two more criteria to the list: “audience” and “timeliness” (68). They called their ultimate rubric the “Kuhn + 2” model; however, the most important lesson from Warner’s review of her assessment strategies is less that we have a neatly packaged model and more the act of naming itself. That is, “the rubric needs to be created fresh, with students, for each kind of project you assign” (68). This may seem like an idealistic goal, but anything less and we may end up making the students a product of the new technologies rather than genuine producers. And, isn’t this a good direction to go with any kind of assessment anyway? I think we may see echoes of this always-learning-how-to-learn difficulty with my new favorite word, “deixis,” on Thursday…

    Sources to look at:

    Ball, Cheryl E. “Assessing Scholarly Multimedia: A Rhetorical Genre Studies Approach.” Technical Communication Quarterly 21.1 (2012): 61-77. Web.

    This journal article is part of a special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly called Making the Implicit Explicit in Assessing Multimodal Composition, which, well, entirely deals with assessing multimodal texts.

    There’s also a webinar, “Strategies for Assessing Multimodal Projects,” that Kristin Arola, Jennifer Sheppard, and Cheryl Ball led, which I might be able to provide a link for if anyone’s interested. Also check out their book Making Multimodal Projects, which surely deals with assessment as well.


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