While many composition scholars, including Ron Fortune, Gunther Kress, and Cynthia L. Selfe, have discussed multimodal compositions (compositions that combine more than one mode, such as text, image, audio, or video) and the promotion of visual literacy in the classroom, the issue of how to assess these unique compositions deserves more attention than it has been given. As graduate student instructors teaching in a Writing Program that requires us to incorporate visual rhetoric into our first-year composition classrooms, we struggled to find exemplary materials that clearly and concisely illustrated multimodal assessment strategies and techniques. Specifically, we needed to examine how to apply our department's program-wide writing rubric--one that we are required to use in our freshman composition courses--to our assignments that ask our students to create multimodal texts. When our Writing Program updated the current rubric back in 2005, they added a new assessment category of "format and design." Although we saw this much welcomed addition as an attempt to incorporate the visual rhetoric requirement, we were still unsure about how to apply the rubric in its entirety to our students' multimodal projects. Furthermore, as graduate student instructors working in the writing program for our assistantships, we lacked the departmental authority to write our own rubrics or amend the current rubric as it stands. After doing some preliminary research on our own, which included a survey to discover instructors' attitudes and current practices regarding assessing multimodal compositions, we discovered that we were not the only ones in our department--and departments across the discipline--who might benefit from some additional guidance on how a traditional writing rubric could be used to successfully evaluate multimodal assignments.
Based on our research, survey results, student examples, and personal observations in the classroom, we show in this webtext how a traditional writing program rubric, a rubric designed to primarily evaluate alphabetic-only texts, can also be used to assess multimodal compositions. While many instructors at other institutions may not be required to use a specific rubric provided to them by their writing program like we are, our hope is that our conclusions will help them either create rubrics of their own or apply the rubrics they currently use to multimodal compositions. This rubric and our findings provide instructors with categories and resources for evaluating multimodal compositions. Additionally, there may be others in our position, as graduate students, who do not have the power to change the required department policies for grading and may find this evaluation of multimodal compositions useful for assessing their own students projects. We do not argue that this is the only way of assessing multimodal compositions, but we do hope to show that there is no need to create an entirely separate assessment system for multimodal compositions than those used for traditional alphabetic texts.
You will find that this webtext is organized into four distinct sections: The first section situates our argument within the current conversation surrounding multimodal theory and assessment, which shows that multimodal projects are not only important, but that they should be evaluated based upon rhetorical principals. The second section includes survey results which reflect the current assessment practices of composition instructors. The third section explains how compositions instructors can utilize their own Writing Program’s rubric to assess a variety of student multimodal compositions, proving that multimodal compositions can be assessed on the basic rhetorical principals used for alphabetic essay evaluation. The final section will demonstrate how composition instructors can assess multimodal compositions with examples from our own students using the traditional rubric that our Writing Program requires.