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    Authentic multimodal assessments

    By Mira Vogel, on 7 October 2016

    Cross-posted to the Connected Curriculum Fellows blog.

    My Connected Curriculum Fellowship project explores current practice with Connected Curriculum dimension 5 – ‘Students learn to produce outputs – assessments directed at an audience’. My emphasis is on assessing students’ digital (including digitised) multimodal outputs for an audience. What does ‘multimodal’ mean? Modes can be thought of as styles of communication –  register and voice, for example – while media and be thought of as its fabric. In practice, though, the line between the two is quite blurry (Kress, 2012). This work will look at multimodal assessment from the following angles.

    What kinds of digital multimodal outputs are students producing at UCL, and using which media? The theoretic specificity of verbal media, such as essay or talk, explains its dominance in academia. Some multimodal forms, such as documentaries, are recognised as (potentially) academic, while others are straightforwardly authentic, such as curation students producing online exhibitions. At the margins are works which bring dilemmas about academic validity, such as fan fiction submitted for the From Codex To Kindle module, or the Internet Cultures student who blogged as a dog.

    How are students supported to conceptualise their audiences? DePalma and Alexander (2015) observe that students who are used to writing for one or two academic markers may struggle with the complex notions of audience called for by an expanded range of rhetorical resources. The 2016 Making History convenor has pointed out that students admitted to UCL on strength of their essays may find the transition to multimodal assessment unsettling and question its validity.  I hope to explore tutor and student perspectives here with a focus on how the tasks are introduced to students. I will maintain awareness of the Liberating the Curriculum emphasis on diverse audiences. I will also explore matters of consent and intellectual property, and ask what happens to the outputs once the assessment is complete.

    What approaches are taken to assessing multimodal work? A 2006 survey (Anderson et al) reported several assessment challenges for markers, including separation of rhetorical from aesthetic effects, diversity of skills, technologies and interpretation, and balancing credit between effort and quality where the output may be unpolished. Adsanatham (2012) describes how his students generated more complex criteria than he could have alone, helping “enrich our ever-evolving understanding and learning of technology and literacies”. DePalma and Alexander (2015) discuss written commentaries or reflective pieces as companions to students’ multimodal submissions. Finding out about the practices of staff and students across UCL promises to illuminate possibilities, questions, contrasts and dilemmas.

    I plan to identify participants by drawing on my and colleagues’ networks, the Teaching and Learning Portal, and calls via appropriate channels. Building on previous work, I hope to collect screen-capture recordings, based on question prompts, in which students explain their work and tutors explain how they marked it. These kinds of recordings provide very rich data but, anticipating difficulties obtaining consent to publish these, I also plan to transcribe and analyse them using NVivo to produce a written report. I aim to produce a collection of examples of multimodal work, practical suggestions for managing the trickier areas of assessment, and ideas for supporting students in their activities. I will ask participants to validate these outputs.

    Would you like to get involved? Contact Mira Vogel.

    References

    Adsanatham, C. 2012. Integrating Assessment and Instruction: Using Student-Generated Grading Criteria to Evaluate Multimodal Digital Projects. Computers and Composition 29(2): 152–174.

    Anderson, D., Atkins, A., Ball, C., et al. 2006. Integrating Multimodality into Composition Curricula: Survey Methodology and Results from a CCCC Research Grant. Composition Studies 34(2). http://www.uc.edu/journals/composition-studies/issues/archives/fall2006-34-2.html.

    DePalma, M.J., and Alexander, K.P. 2015. A Bag Full of Snakes: Negotiating the Challenges of Multimodal Composition. Computers and Composition 37: 182–200.

    Gunther, K. and Staffan Selander, S. 2012. Multimodal Design, Learning and Cultures of Recognition. The Internet and Higher Education 15(4): 265–268.

    Vogel, M., Kador, T., Smith, F., Potter, J. 2016. Considering new media in scholarly assessment. UCL Teaching and Learning Conference. 19 April 2016. Institute of Education, UCL, London, UK. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/events/conference/2016/UCLTL2016Abstracts; https://goo.gl/nqygUH