Yesterday evening I visited the UCL Knowledge Lab where, as a guest of Sophia Diamantopolou and Gunther Kress, I spoke to the Visual and Multimodal Forum about one aspect of my Doctoral research, around the relationship between multimodality and assessment within increasingly digital educational environments. The central argument of my presentation was that our approach to richly multimodal assessment in the Humanities (and other disciplines and courses that heavily privilege language in its various form) might be informed by looking to existing practice around assessment and feedback within the overtly multimodal undergraduate Architecture studio. Based upon my ethnographic study of an Architectural Design course, combined with a review of the relevant literatures, I proposed a set of questions that those of us in the Humanities might ask in order to offer insights into:
Here are my slides:
To offer the group some context I showed a short video I recorded last year which brings together images, sounds and field notes recorded in the Architectural Design studio. Meanwhile, I drew my presentation to a close by delivering a commentary over the following screen capture which records me (or my avatar) marking a piece of coursework prepared by Graeme Hathaway, a student from the MSc in Digital Education at Edinburgh University (thank you, Graeme).
There's no sound on this, just images.
As the group watched my avatar go underwater in order to mark Graeme’s investigation into immersion within virtual worlds, I described the student-tutor dialogue that took place around the assignment. This included how Graeme and I discussed Kress’s (2005) worked around ‘aptness of mode and audience’. In a practical sense, this involved challenging Graeme to think about selecting the medium for his assignment that would most effectively convey his knowledge, understanding and arguments (aptness of mode). At the same time I invited Graeme to think about what he knew of his audience’s (my) interests that would be suggestive of a particular approach (aptness of audience). That Graeme answered these questions so effectively was reflected in a really imaginative and successful (and immersive!) piece of work.
As well as giving me the opportunity to try out ideas on others with an interest in multimodality, the discussion that followed my presentation yesterday evening had the effect of distilling some of the ideas that have been coming out of my research. Most significantly is the question of just how helpful it is describe a coursework exercise as a ‘multimodal assignment’ or similar. I think there’s a danger that this approach confuses the nature of multimodality itself (especially if we accept, as I do, that all communication is multimodal) whilst also framing multimodality as risky, experimental or somehow ‘other’ to what is scholarly. In my experience this can have the effect of discouraging students who do not believe themselves to be particularly creative, visual or technologically sophisticated, whilst at the same distracting other students from asking what is the most appropriate way of conveying their ideas.
The seminar drew to a close with a broad consensus that rather than pushing students to take a multimodal approach, we might instead invite them to think about the medium that is best suited to representing their ideas, as well as closely matching the interests of the audience and the nature of the course itself. The different is slight, however perhaps places greater attention on thinking about content, audience and form, rather than immediately trying to construct something that is first and foremost multimodal.
With thanks to Sophia Diamantopolou and Gunther Kress and other members of the Visual and Multimodal Forum for their valuable feedback.
Assessment, feedback and multimodality in Architectural Design
Assessment, learning and digital education
Looking beyond photos: the Architectural site visit
Camera and recorded, scissors and brush: ethnography of a pop-up exhibition
I am a Lecturer in Digital Education (Education Futures), within the Centre for Research in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh.