Using Rhetorical Media to Meet Outcomes

and Satisfy Stakeholders


Results of the Project

Attempting to address the before-mentioned issues with the second semester course, the class was redesigned to build toward a final documentary film project.  The project itself was designed to have students work together (unless they gain special permission to work alone) to write, film, edit and deliver a short documentary film.  The film production provided students an opportunity to compose in an electronic environment and required students to obtain original interviews collected from people from the world around the students. 

Assignments prior to the film project used audio and visual as tools for analysis, which aimed to improve their critical thinking and writing abilities, but did not require students to produce multi-modal texts.  These tasks asked students to adhere to genre conventions and to analyze the rhetorical choices of others.

To begin the project, students wrote a proposal for the film, then completed an argumentative research paper based upon library research.  Upon the completion of the assignment, the class viewed the assignment, during the final exam period, and voted for the best film.  At that time students were asked to complete reflective responses to evaluate what they learned through the process, both about communication and collaboration.

Three sections of second semester composition were implemented in this manner.  Of the students in those sections only eight students (11.1%) were unsuccessful.  Five of these students withdrew before the assignment was assigned.  Two who received failing grades in the class, completed the documentary anyway--even though they knew they were failing to complete other assignments earlier in the term.  The final student did not complete the assignment, but did assist group members in finding individuals to interview for the film.

There are many factors including the time of instruction, campus, class size, textbooks, and part-time vs. full-time employment of the professor that may contribute to these numbers.  However, this version of the course, it must be noted, more successfully responds to the needs of the stakeholders.

It challenges students to collaborate with one another and experience the trials and triumphs that come through group work.  As a result, it created stronger bonds between students and made them more likely to reach out to one another for help, rather than simply disappear.  This accountability kept students engaged and helped students to complete the course, thereby increasing their chances of success.

In addition, the piece uses real-world genres such as the proposal to help students gain experience with writing tasks that are more common in the workplace.  It tasks students with having personal and social responsibility and the opportunity to compose in an multi-modal medium reflects the professor’s interpretation of the WPA Outcomes.

Sample Student Responses:

“The most important thing I learned from making a documentary was responsibility.”

“It took a lot of effort [...] but it was a good chance to get ideas not just from myself but from others.”

“[The documentary project] was good because it kept me interested.”

“I feel I’ve grown to be able to work in groups and [...] let my guard down.”

(Back to Top).