Multimodal Essay Assignment For Grade

Welcome to the third post in our Hack and Yack series on multimodal composition from Amy Braziller and Elizabeth Kleinfeld. Enjoy!

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You’re excited about assigning a multimodal project. You’ve crafted the assignment, but then you stop, fearful, wondering how are you supposed to grade the project. It’s not an essay, something you’ve been grading for years. If you’re not an expert on the genre your student composed in, how can you evaluate it in a fair and ethical way? Furthermore, how can you grade in a way that doesn’t privilege someone who is a video-editing whiz and penalize someone who may draw a cartoon on notebook paper with uneven lines and rudimentary skill?

Focus your grading on the stuff you ARE an expert on, and that is a student’s ability to respond appropriately to a rhetorical situation and to articulate and defend her choices. That’s why we advocate for instructors to have their students reflect in writing on their authorial choices. Using that piece of reflective writing as a guide, you can evaluate the sophistication of the authorial choices the student made.

When we grade, we emphasize the rhetorical, rather than the artistic, aspects of a piece, focusing, for example, on how successfully the student has used rhetorical appeals and how effectively the student has used or rejected the conventions of the genre. The question that is always first and foremost in our minds when we grade is, “How has the student used the affordances of the genre she chose to address her rhetorical situation?” A student who has never made a video before may not create a professional-quality video, but the accompanying reflective writing may indicate that she fully understood how to integrate appeals to pathos and ethos.

You can also develop broad criteria for visual, audio, and written modes, either by yourself or with input from the class, by listing the features one would expect to see in those modes. For example, you might expect something that is primarily visual to use color, line, and proportion to guide viewers toward a focal point. You might expect something that is audio to use silence and pacing strategically.

Or you might want to develop criteria that can be applied to a wide variety of genres. For example, whether a text is written, visual, or aural, it should be organized in some way, have a focal point, convey a clear message, and draw readers or viewers in.

Below is a sample of a grading rubric we use when assessing a visual argument assignment.

Grading Criteria for Visual Argument Assignment (100 points)

Visual Argument
Makes an arguable claim20 points
Claim is supported by visual choices, such as typography, color, graphics, layout10 points
Is primarily visual rather than linguistic or alphabetic10 points
Appeals to a specific audience using rhetorical appeals10 points
Reflective Essay
Discusses the claim and how you considered elements of argument in your visual argument20 points
Discusses use of rhetorical appeals10 points
Discusses how your visual argument appeals to a specific audience10 points
Discusses how you used design principles to create your visual argument10 points

Terms You Should Know

  • Multimodality: Using different means of communication (e.g. language, images, hypertext, etc.) to construct cohesive  arguments in various media (i.e., advertisements, posters, news report, websites, films)
  • Non-engaged stakeholder: A person (or group of people) who is uninvolved in or unconcerned with the discussion about an issue and who is not interested or invested in taking action on that issue

Project Description

Project 3 is comprised of three, multimodal parts. Each part uses specific strengths of its media to achieve the same goal. Project 3 is a Global Citizens Assignment.

You will produce a multimodal argument (either a website or video, as specified by your instructors) that (a) educates an audience of non-engaged stakeholders about the issue or topic concerning a global or cultural issue; (b) engages the audience by convincing them that they should care about this issue or topic; and (c) empowers the audience to take action in some way.

You will then compose an argumentative essay of 1200-1400 words that accomplishes the same goals as above, but that uses rhetorical strategies developed for written communication.

Last, in a public space, you will communicate ideas and information to diverse audiences about global and cultural issues at Rhetoric in Action Day (RIAD).

Project 3 brings all you have done full circle. You will use the understanding of the rhetorical situation that you’ve developed throughout the semester to craft an effective argument that persuades the audience to take the action you recommend. Based on the understanding of multiple stakeholder perspectives developed in Project 1, you will use evidence to educate the audience as a means of securing their engagement with your issue. Finally, you will use the understanding of visual rhetoric that you developed in Project 2 to create a multimodal argument that advocates your call to action.

Project Assignment

Project 3 is comprised of three parts. Note that while the goals of the while the goals of the multimodal and written arguments are the same, each argument achieves its goals by employing the different strengths of that media.

1. Multimodal Argument: You will produce a multimodal argument (either a website or video, as specified by your instructors). This multimodal argument (a) educates an audience of non-engaged stakeholders about the issue or topic; (b) engages the audience by convincing them that they should care about this issue or topic; and (c) empowers the audience to take action in some way. By the conclusion of the essay, the audience should feel both engaged with the topic and empowered to act.

2. Formal Essay: You will compose an argumentative essay of 1200-1400 words that (a) educates an audience of non-engaged stakeholders about the issue or topic; (b) engages the audience by convincing them that they should care about this issue or topic; and (c) empowers the audience to take action in some way. By the conclusion of the essay, the audience should feel both engaged with the topic and empowered to act.

3. Presentation: At Rhetoric in Action Day, hosted by USF’s FYC program, students will present their multimodal remediation (or a portion of it) for a diverse audience of their peers.

Assessment

This project will be assessed using this rubric: Project-3-_-Composing-Multi-modal-Arguments-1102.

Written Argument Early Draft

Your Project 3 Written Argument Early Draft should be an 800-1000 word draft that a) educates an audience of non-engaged stakeholders about the issue or topic; b) engages the audience by convincing them that they should care about this issue or topic; and c) empowers the audience to take action in some way.

This draft should include a thesis, major points, and evidence to support these points, including in-text citations from appropriate sources, and a Works Cited page.

Multimodal Argument Early Draft

The Multimodal Argument Early Draft for Project 3 will be the draft of your multimodal argument (either website or video as designated by your instructor). The work you do in this early draft accomplishes two goals preliminary design and content work for the final multimodal argument and content and idea building for the written argument.

Peer Review 

Follow assignment guidelines as outlined by your instructor. Using MyReviewers, you will provide feedback via peer review. The peer review process allows you to respond to your peers’ drafts as fellow writers working toward the common goal of producing properly formatted, useful and insightful essays. Both you and your peers will be using each other’s comments and recommendations to improve your work. Thus, your individual commitment to peer review has a real impact on the success of the entire class.

Multimodal Argument Final Draft

The multimedia argument final draft should be a polished and thoughtfully designed website or video. The multimodal argument will have the minimum requirements:

    • A website will include a home page that introduces the audience to the site; a minimum of three other pages that educate, engage, and empower the audience to act; and a Works Cited page. The sources used in the written argument also can be used in the multimedia argument.
    • A video will be two to five minutes long and will integrate audio (music and spoken word) and visual components (images and dialogue) with minimal “talking head” narration. Sources used in the video must be credited.

Revision Plan

Follow assignment guidelines as outlined by your instructor. Create a revision plan in MyReviewers that considers the feedback you received on your intermediate draft. Summarize this feedback, analyze which comments you find most helpful, and then determine how you will revise your draft.

Written Argument Final Draft

The written argument final draft should be a polished essay (1200-1400 words) and should include a thesis, all major points, evidence to support these points (including in-text citations from appropriate sources), and a Works Cited page.

Both final drafts (a) educate an audience of non-engaged stakeholders about the issue or topic; (b) engage the audience by convincing them that they should care about this issue or topic; and (c) empower the audience to take action in some way. Both compositions (digital and text-only) should be free of organizational, grammar, and style errors and should follow proper MLA structure when formatting and citing sources.

Final drafts that have not been significantly revised will be lowered one letter grade.

Role of Research

You will draw on the research conducted in the past two projects. Project 3 requires a minimum of five credible sources. You may use research referenced in Projects 1 and 2; however, you must include at least three new sources that you have not previously used.

As you think about research for this assignment, remember what you have learned about the role of research: yes, it gives you credibility with your audience, but it primarily serves to invite the audience into the conversation about your topic. As you are researching, think about the kinds of questions your audience might have, and think about the types of evidence you might provide that would help them understand the issue and your position. Ultimately, you will call the audience to action, but they must trust that you have fairly represented the issue, and they must have the necessary context to understand why and how the issue is important. Make good use of your evidence as you give your audience these perspectives.

Future Considerations

Through completion of Projects 1, 2, and 3, students have learned to investigate a topic or issue through formal research and media-based arguments created by stakeholders; to analyze the rhetorical strategies used in both written and visual arguments; to enter into an existing discussion; and to contribute to arguments made by various stakeholders in a real world setting.

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