Assessing Student Composition

Sorapure, Madeline. “Between Modes: Assessing Student New Media Compositions.” Kairos 10.2 (Spring 2006): 1-15. Web. 12 May 2012.

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0“I suggest an assessment strategy that focuses on the effectiveness with which modes such as image, text, and sound are brought together or, literally, composed. Moreover, I propose that we draw on our familiarity with rhetorical tropes—and specifically with the tropes of metaphor and metonymy—to provide us with a language with which to talk to our students about the effectiveness of their work” (Sorapure 2).

“[W]e are at a transitional stage in the process of incorporating new media into our composition courses” (Sorapure 2).

“A broadly rhetorical approach can accommodate these differences—that is, an approach that focuses assessment on how effectively the project addresses a specific audience to achieve a specific purpose. The weakness of a broad rhetorical approach is that it doesn’t in itself offer any specific guidance or criteria for handling the multimodal aspects of the composition” (Sorapure 3).

Assessing how students design relations between modes appeals to me on practical grounds because it addresses of the two most common problems I’ve seen in the new media compositions my students have done. First, some students seem inclined to match modes, so that, for instance, a Flash project will have a song playing in the background while on the screen the lyrics to the song appear along with images depicting exactly what the lyrics say. While some repetition across modes may be useful in focusing attention or highlighting key ideas, too much mode matching diminishes the potential of multimedia composing by, in essence, leveling the modes so that they each express something more or less equivalent. Productive tension between modes here is at a minimum. (Sorapure 4)

“The opposite sort of problem occurs when students include an element in a project simply because it looks good or because it is a cool effect, despite the fact that the element adds nothing to the meaning of the project and bears little, if any, relation to the other components of the project” (Sorapure 5).

“Metaphor designates a relation based on substitution; in a multimodal work, one mode can metaphorically represent or stand in for another, as when an animation of a word dynamically represents its meaning. It is a relation based on similarity between elements in different modes” (Sorapure 5).
“similarity and substitution” (Sorapure 5)

“Metonymy designates a relation based on combination; modes can be metonymically related when they are linked by an association, as when lines from a poem are combined with a melody from a song. It is a relation based on contiguity between elements in different modes” (Sorapure 5).
“contiguity and association” (Sorapure 6)

assignment = create a collage using Photoshop
The collage was to illustrate a particular quote (Sorapure 6).

Sorapure gives four student examples and discusses them in detail. This is useful for teachers who have not had this kind of assignment, as well as anyone trying to follow her argument (7-10).

Sorapure also discusses one multimodal project and two professional projects (11-14).

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