Visualizing the invisible – assessing qualities in multimodal meaning-making in language education

Submitted by: Anna-Lena Godhe
Abstract: It is well-known by now that assessment in formal educational settings focus on verbal language even though students are assigned to create multimodal compositions (e.g. Godhe, 2014). The research project presented here involves researchers with expertise within the fields of language learning, visual arts, pedagogical drama and music pedagogy. Combining our expertise, the project aims to investigate both practicing teachers’ and teacher students’ conception of multimodal meaning-making.
A recent analysis of multimodality in curricula in the Nordic countries revealed that all curricula contained aspects of multimodality (Elf et al., 2018). Whereas the focus earlier has been on receptive skills, the curricula now also contain goals relating to students productions of multimodal work. Knowledge requirements in curricula tend to focus on assessing products, rather than process. However, as pointed out by for example Wyatt-Smith and Kimber (2009), to use a static set of criteria or rubrics on dynamic multimodal texts runs the risk of being counterproductive. By attending to the compositional process, it is possible to make visible how multimodal compositions are created in a situated practice perspective.
Teachers of languages have specific knowledge of verbal language but not of other modes for expressing meaning, such as images and sound (Tønnesen, 2011). The general level of knowledge in other modes than the verbal does not appear to be sufficient in order to evaluate and assess multimodal compositions where a number of meaning-making modes interact and intertwine. However, it is not plausible for language teachers to obtain specific level of knowledge of all modes. The question that we aim to explore is what qualitative aspects of the different modes that language teachers need to be able to distinguish and evaluate in students compositions and how can these be developed.
The data will mainly consist of interviews and recordings from teachers’ group discussions and from classrooms. We aim to combine and explore different theoretical standpoint by taking a mainly phenomenographical approach in one of the two studies and a social interactionist in the other as well as exploring socio-materialistic theories and conceptions.
Elf, N., Gilje, Ø., Olin-Scheller, C. & Slotte, A. (2018). Nordisk status og forskningsperspektiver i L1: Multimodalitet i stryedokumenter og klasserumspraksis. In; Rogne, M. & Rune Waage, L. (red.) Multimodalitet i skole- og fritidstekstar. Ein vitskapleg antologi. Fagbokforlaget, p. 71−104.

Godhe, A-L. (2014). Creating and assessing multimodal texts: negotiations at the boundary. Diss. Goteborg: Goteborgs universitet.

Tønnessen, E. S (2011). Multimodal textkompetense og dataspill, [Multimodal text competence and computer games]. In Ellvin, M, Skar, G & Tengberg, M (red.), Svenskämnet i förändring […], 2011, Svensklararserien 234.

Wyatt-Smith, C., & Kimber, K. (2009). Working multimodally: Challenges for assessment. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 8(3), pp 70-90.