Tag Archives: modes

Assessing Multimodal Projects

You may remember, in a former post on Mar. 21, 2014, I (Cathy) shared some of my pre-service students’ multimodal projects.  The dilemma facing me after these wonderful creations were submitted, was how to assess them.  As these were only part of a larger assignment, I already had a rubric in place for whole project, but after seeing the brilliance of the multimodal aspect, I felt these alone warranted more thought and introspection on my part.  Having a background in the arts, I was used to assessing creative process and final product, but this was different.  Although artistic and expressive, this wasn’t “art”.  Hence, I looked up a number of sources on assessing multimodal work and discovered a few different opinions.

Kalantzis, Cope & Harvey (2003) argued that a multimodal assessment needs to measure the creative process and the collaborative skills demonstrated.   Jacobs(2013) suggested it wasn’t about the final product, but “watching and noticing what students are doing and then using that information to guide the students toward new skills and knowledge”.  In the end I sought out the opinion of Gunther Kress, the founder of the Multimodalities Theory.  Kress (2003) explained that representation and communication were an affective/cognitive semiotic process and this must be taken into account in the assessment. He suggested that I, as the teacher [educator] should not ask “How does this project match what I wanted or expected?”, but instead should ask, “How does this project give me insight into the interests and motivations of my learner?”  I found this question quite insightful. In the end, I used Kress’ question to guide my feedback, which will hopefully guide the students toward new insights and knowledge.  The required ‘grade’ was based on a combination of the learners’ expressed interests from within the context of the whole project (which was on diversity), the creative process and the collaborative nature of the work.

Through this process I discovered that assessing in the new age of multimodality demands mindfulness, insight and the ability to make many connections.  To be effective, it also requires that the teacher educator, or teacher, know his/her students well.  This type of assessment takes time, but it is much more meaningful. I have to admit, as much as the students loved doing these multimodal projects, I loved assessing them in this “new” way.  We all got more out of the process.  Below is a link to one more student project expressed as POW TOON digital creation.  How would you assess it?



Multimodal Literacy

My (Cathy) pre-service students were assigned a multimodal aspect to a major assignment this year.  If you are not familiar with the Theory of Multimodality, it is Gunther Kress’ alternative to Linguistic Theory (which only privileges reading and writing as the main modes of communication in a school curriculum).  The Multimodal Theory contests that in our new age of multiple literacies, students need to be communicating, responding and expressing through many different modes of communication (e.g. speaking, music, moving, gesturing, image, and digital technology).

When I first introduced the multimodal assignment to my students, there was some trepidation and even some anger.  It was suggested I did not have the right to be marking them on their artistry or on creativity.  Hence, I had to teach the concepts behind Multimodality Theory so they could better understand what we need to be offering students of the 21st century.  They needed to see that it would allow them the freedom to express in modes of their own choosing; that it was not graded as art but as a production of design; and, that the work could be symbolic or interpretive depending on the meaning they were portraying.  The multimodal projects would also be shared in class so all could learn from them.  This project was not just them regurgitating information for me, it was them designing and producing personally meaningful projects that express what they learned and what they deemed significant.

This week we finished viewing the projects.  They were amazing, and the student response to these projects was encouraging.  My students (concurrent students just finishing a five year educational degree) had never been given this kind of an assignment before.  They loved the element of choice; working together; taking a risk; pushing their boundaries; feeling creative; and, doing something they were interested in.  The modes they selected  to express themselves though were sometimes more traditional (dancing, rapping, singing,  writing and reciting  poetry, creating 3D sculptures, puppetry, multi-sensory art installation pieces); sometimes digital (iMovies, pod-casts, prezis, Pow Toons, popplets, infographics);  and, were often a combination of both.

Collectively, we were all blown away by the results.  We were moved.  We were inspired.  My students all said they would definitely use multimodality now as teachers.  Below are a few images of my students presenting their projects:

role play poemfish bowlRAPguitarpuppet photo (13)

Now, I have to assess these designs… but that, dear reader, is for another blog.