Creating the projects and letting our students choose from the vast array of options available to them to share their information might be exciting. However, when faculty are confronted with the assessment element of a multimodal project, questions and tension arise: What should I evaluate? How much should creativity count? How do I grade design while being as objective as possible?

it is important to provide students with a rubric to guide their learning process and indicate the outcomes they are working to achieve. However, rubrics can be negotiated with them in order to make the assessment as fair as possible.

Quoting scholars from the educational field (Gonzalez, 2014; Hutson, 2017; Mertler, 2001; Wiggins, 2017) and the digital scholar setting (Anderson & McPherson, 2011; Evan Ortlieb, Earl H. Cheek, & Peggy Semingson, 2018; Gillen, 2014; Mattern, 2012).

  • For multimodal/multimedia projects in courses that aren’t about teaching and learning media, provide a rubric to guide their learning process.
  • Align the rubric criteria with the assignment objectives and the course learning outcomes.
  • Only assess what is being taught in the course, and/or prior experience.
  • If you are looking for a particular kind of media assignment, then just be clear about that from the start to avoid confusion.
  • Expose students to a range of various projects that demonstrate the scholarly/critical production you expect.
  • If expecting students to be part of the assessment process (i.e. peer reviews), guide them through the process beforehand.
  • Situate the grading around the kinds of creative/media choices made in relation to the intention of the project. We suggest requiring a written analysis/reflection that accompanies the project for this reason.
    • On the project handout and rubric, you would clearly state the project will be assessed based on how well the creative and structural decisions align with (or relate to) the intentions (or thesis) outlined in the student’s written analysis.
    • You are basing the grade on evidence of the student’s own critical thinking demonstrated through appropriate structure and creative decisions that align with the written critical analysis.
    • The specific criteria/categories/breakdown listed could all be based on how the student makes these connections

For this endeavor, a first step should be to expose students to an extensive range of various (multi)media projects that would allow them to have a sense of what is expected from them in the scholarly production. According to Mattern (2012), students can benefit from being exposed to the whole assessment process as this may help them avoid superficial and biased assessment:

The class as a whole, with the instructor’s guidance, can evaluate a selection of existing multimodal scholarly projects and generate a list of critical criteria before students attempt their own critiques – perhaps first in small groups, then individually. Asking the students to write and/or present formal “reader’s reports” – or exhibition or map critiques – and equipping them with a vocabulary tends to push their evaluation beyond the “I like it” / “I don’t like it” /“There’s too much going on” / “I didn’t get it” territory. The fact that users’ evaluations frequently reside within this superficial “I (don’t) like it” domain is not necessarily due to any lack of serious engagement or interest on their part, but may be attributable to the fact that they (faculty included!) don’t always know what criteria should be informing their judgment, or what language is typically used in or is appropriate for such a review.

Consequently, to avoid such generality and to properly assess the assignment criteria, faculty should consider the following aspects when constructing a rubric: only assess what is being taught in the course, situate the grading around the kinds of choices students made in relation to the intention of their project – which could be a required component of the project i.e. written work accompanying media project, with either a separate rubric or incorporated into the same rubric. To this regard, Kuhn (2008) suggests  some components to take into account when assessing scholarly media productions:

  • Conceptual Core: Does the project effectively align and engage with the issues raised in the student’s research topic?
  • Research Competence: Does the project display evidence of substantial research and thoughtful engagement with its topic?
  • Form and Content: Do structural and formal elements of the project reinforce the conceptual core in a productive way? Are design decisions deliberate and controlled?
  • Creative Realization: Does the project use media effectively? Does this project achieve significant goals that could not have been realized in a written paper