Creating a rubric for evaluating multimodal projects
What I describe here is a process for creating a rubric that is, I hope, flexible enough to use with many different types of multimodal projects. The process I’m describing is one I’ve put to use when I’m asking students, in a first-year writing class, to produce video PSAs, or public service announcements. In the class, students have just conducted a research project for which they’ve analyzed issues related to campus life, and situated those issues culturally, historically, and socially.
The next project asks them to produce a 30-second public service announcement to increase awareness of the issue among the student population. When I introduce the assignment, we spend some time talking about what PSAs are, who produces them and how they’re made, and what they’re designed to do.
Step 1: Let’s watch…
I typically show in class a few pieces that are similar to what I’ve asked students to produce. So, for instance, for an assignment where students are producing a local, community-related public service announcement video (30 seconds, max), we look at a lot of short PSAs— those produced by national-level organizations and those produced by local organizations.
(When we work on creating spoof/parody movie trailers, we look at a lot of movie trailers, both “official” movie trailers (to discuss genre conventions) and other spoof/parody movie trailers (to assess how composers remixed and morphed generic conventions).
YouTube is the place I typically go to gather such materials. An absolutely fantastic site to gather political advertisements from is http://www.easehistory.org.This site not only offers the ads themselves, but also provides some contextual information, and allows users to compare ads of competing campaigns, which is helpful for conducting rhetorical analyses.)
Step 2: Let’s critique…
After watching a few pieces and doing some initial, overall rhetorical analyses, I’ll generally have students work in small groups and choose one of the pieces we’ve reviewed to analyze. I usually launch their initial discussions by asking overall questions about the entire text:
- What kind of composition is this? What features help to identify what kind of composition it is?
- How might you describe these features? What styles or techniques has the composer used to create emphasis, for instance, or to inspire feeling?
- Who’s the audience for this composition? How do you know? Who is the intended reader/viewer/listener?
- What is the composition doing? For what reason do you think it was created?
- What’s the meaning of this composition? What’s your interpretation of it? How do you think others might respond to the composition? Might there be a variety of interpretations? Why?
- How would you describe the sounds you hear in the composition? Are they loud or quiet? Do they have high or low pitch? Are the sounds fast, slow, or is the pace varied? If the sound changes pitch, where in the piece does it change? Why?
- What is the purpose of the sound elements of the composition? Does the sound provide atmosphere? Are the sounds accompanying something else, such as an image? Or are certain sounds supporting transitions, for instance? Or accompanying an opening or closing sequence? Are there any places where sound is the main or only mode of communication?
- Who is the intended audience for the sound? Do you get a sense that the audience is stable throughout the whole composition? Or do different sounds seem to appeal to different audiences? If so, how? Do you think the sound in the composition is meant to be listened to by a single listener with headphones? A room full of people? Children or adults? Experts or nonexperts?
- Overall, how do you interpret the use of sound in the composition? How might others perhaps interpret the use of sound differently?
- How do you know? What sort of feedback have you received?
- What do you want your teachers to look for? What do you, as a composer, want feedback on?
- What are some of the characteristics of “good” writing, as it is usually taught and valued in school contexts?
- Overall, what are the characteristics of good PSAs? What does an “A” PSA do? What does it not do?
Usually, what we produce as a class works incredibly well. If it’s a bit of a struggle, I’ll usually allocate another day to actually work through the rubric using a sample student piece (from an earlier semester, or an example from online). This gives them a chance to see their rubric in practice, and make tweaks if they feel adjustments are necessary.