The thought of assessing multimodal compositions can be somewhat daunting at first, but as Borton and Huot point out, "all composing tasks, including multimodal projects, should be informed both broadly and deeply by a rhetorical understanding of composition" (99). Evaluating assignments based on their ability to accomplish their purpose and appeal to a particular audience is something we already do as instructors, and we can easily apply these measures to non-alphabetic texts as well. When approached with a plan and rubric, the task of evaluating multimodal compositions is not that different from grading traditional text-based compositions.
Here are a few ideas for approaches to grading multimodal compositions:
1. Provide students a list of guidelines for the assignment.This could include, and is not limited to the following:
- Assignment objectives, which should line up with overall course objectives.
- Goals, purpose, and/or expectations for the final project/artifact.
- Target dates for deadlines throughout the project. (Borton and Huot 100)
2. Provide students an assessment rubric or list of performance standards.The rubric will be used to assess the multimodal composition. You can create criteria either on your own or collaborate with the class to create performance standards (Borton and Huot 100-101). Giving students feedback both during the project and at the end of the project can ensure that they are achieving the objectives you've set out (Borton and Huot 100). Assessment should be an ongoing conversation between you and your students (Palloff and Pratt 212). Here are some considerations for assessment criteria:
- List grading criteria (i.e. participation, ability to meet deadlines, demonstrates understanding of purpose of assignment, represents original/creative work, etc.)
- Grading criteria for elements of visual rhetoric(i.e cohesive, well organized, effective use of sound, color, formatting, use of images and/or text)
- Grading criteria for overall project(i.e. appropriate use of medium (audio, video, web design, etc...) successful development and presentation of argument)
- Determine "whether a student has taken advantage of the specific affordances, or capabilities of, each modality" (Borton and Huot 103)
- Evaluate how well the composition appeals to its intended audience (Selfe, Fleisscher, and Wright 22)
- Consider how well students have paid attention to citation, copyright, and licensing (Selfe, Fleischer, and Wright 22)
- Maintain a "progress-assessment journal" as a teacher, and have students keep their own progress journal (Borton and Huot 105-6)
3. Have students complete a self evaluation.This can either be completed as a form or as a reflective paper. This can also be done individually or collaboratively depending on the project. Self evaluation is an important tool for assessing multimodal projects in order to gauge students' level of engagement with the assignment (Palloff and Pratt 214).
- Did they meet their personal goals for the assignment?
- How would they approach the assignment differently if they could do it again?
- Based on your efforts with this project, what grade would you give yourself, and/or your group members?
These are just a few ideas for assessing multimodal compositions. Approach this type of assessment by looking for what works and why, rather than focusing solely on what is wrong. Think of assessment as a process occurring throughout the assignment, rather than as the final result of an assignment. Assessment is "meant to improve and measure student performance while also clarifying for students what is expected of them" (Burke 273). It can be difficult to determine how best to evaluate student work, but by making associations between the writing practices you are familiar with and those that are new to you, you can find ways to bridge the gap between the two.
- Selfe, Cynthia, Stephanie Owen Fleischer, Susan Wright. "Words, Audio, and Video: Composing and the Processes of Production." Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers. Ed. Cynthia L. Selfe. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc., 2007. 13-28.
- Borton, Sonya C., Brian Huot. "Responding and Assessing. Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers. Ed. Cynthia L. Selfe. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc., 2007. 99-111.