Courtney L. Werner

Multimodal portfolio classrooms: Parallel,  perpendicular, and tangential practices of learning and assessment

Portfolios and multimodal composing are  parallel pedagogical tools, connected through their various perpendicular offshoots. In this eportfolio, I argue portfolio usage in the composition classroom has parallel and perpendicular rationales with assignments and practices that are multimodal in nature.

Additionally, using a mathematical understanding of what it means to be tangential, I argue that tangent lines on branching from parallel and perpendicular conceptions of multimodality and portfolio assessment are integral to moving composition praxis forward.

Portfolio Contents

The Background
Guiding Questions

Portfolios, Technologies,
and the Composition Classroom
Why Portfolios?

Outlining Multimodal Composition
The Cs
Enhanced Writing
Parallel Educational Tools
First Parallel
Second Parallel
Third Parallel
Fourth Parallel

New Directions: Into Infinity
(Expanding Ideas)

Tangent Line 1
Tangent Line 2
Tangent Line 3

Final Reflections


In the 1970s, process writing took hold of an emerging composition studies (Murray, 1972; Elbow 1973; Tobin, 2000). As composition studies moved forward, so did modes of assessment and modes of teaching. TodayX’s first-year composition classroom looks different from the classroom of the 1970s. Often, computers can be found in the classroom, as well as movable chairs and tables; SmartBoards, ELMOs, and media-podiums are synced to overhead LCD projectors. 

Discussion boards and blogs engage students in a writing community where previous decades had seen discussions of literature and lectures about writing-technique and organization schema. Along the way, testing and assessment have changed. Although composition students may still need to take entrance exams in the form of standardized, multiple choice
questions and timed writing essays, in the ideal writing classroom, these modes of assessment are left behind after the first week of the semester—when diagnostic essays are instituted—for modes that assume students’ authority and ownership.

In writing classrooms where multimodal composition is encouraged and utilized, students might ask, “why are we using blogs?”; “why are we making videos?”; or even “what’s the point of making a video in an English class?” composition instructor persist in bringing technology into the classroom, building bridges to literate practices that students do and will need and use in their personal and professional lives in and outside of academia.

Students are also asking, “why do I have to revise so much?”; “why do I have to write a new draft?”; “do these comments mean I didn’t do well?”; or “why do I have to make a portfolio, and what am I supposed to have in it?” Perry (1997), too, remembers speaking to these and similar questions when she first introduced portfolios into her classroom. The questions have similar undertones—how their writing is assessed by instructors and the types of composing they pursue within the confines of the classroom are curiosities to some students. 

With students’ questioning of these practices—and their ultimate ownership, authority, and rhetorical abilities at the crux of praxis and assessment—instructors need to be more explicit about the connections