Yesterday, our RCWP Project WRITE team had the good fortune of being able to work with NWP’s Director of Research and Evaluation, Paul LeMahieu, on an analytic writing continuum workshop. In his talk, which was similar to the session that I attended last summer, he talked about how the continuum has been developed, the pedagogical uses of it, and how we, as professionals who teach writing, need to not just tell those who value tests to “stop,” but to also offer them something better to use instead (we hope to post some notes on the session soon on the Project WRITE wiki).
Particularly useful for the Project WRITE teachers, as he talked about the different categories for assessment on the continuum (content, structure, stance, diction, sentence fluency, and conventions — modeled, with permission, after six traits), he also talked about how this structure of assessment works for most kinds of writing, but not all and not the least of which is multimodal writing. He mentioned how there are not really any models that explore how to assess multimodal composition and how, perhaps, we could develop one through this work in Project WRITE. That is a very exciting component of this project that I had not anticipated when we originally started, and I look forward to pursuing it more soon. (NOTE: I do think that Bernajean Porter has got our thinking moving in this direction for K-12 students, and put up some good criteria and an interactive rubric maker on her Digitales Evaluation site.)
Coincidentally, I have been chewing on this idea now for the past few days as I was trying to help my students in ENG 201 come up with criteria for evaluating their final multimodal projects. As I asked them to reflect on what they have been doing and how they have been working over the past few weeks on these projects, we talked on Tuesday about how the categories of the analytic continuum (which we have been using all semester) just didn’t quite line up with what they were thinking about in terms of what to earn a grade on. Along with some criteria for judging group member performance, they went back to our discussions earlier this semester about rhetoric, and we came up with the following ideas for grading this project:
- Ethos: the credibility of the author is established through professional language, use of appropriate sources, and evidence of author’s perspective (within or in addition to the main multimodal documents)
- Pathos: the texts make appropriate emotional appeals that both engage the reader and provide insight into the chosen topic
- Logos: the texts present a clear and coherent central idea, supported with appropriate evidence and argumentative strategies
- Content and Structure: the choice of mode and media support the message in the texts and elements of multimedia are thoughtfully integrated into the project rather than as a gratuitous add-on
- Design: the choice of design principles (contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity) as well as rhetorical decisions (transitions, word choice, stance) combine to make an attractive and effective presentation
So, it will be interesting to see how this turns out. Students, in groups, will be assessing the other groups’ work and I will be throwing in my grade with the whole bunch to get an average. I haven’t graded anything multimodal yet, let alone a collaborative grading where students are involved in the process. I’ll write more about it once we are done, and look forward to hearing your ideas about how you are teaching and assessing multimodal writing, as well as any resources that you can point to about this messy, yet engaging, component of the writing process.
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