Approaches to Multimodal Revision

Both with my own students and other instructors, and at our most recent CIC Workshop, I’ve had a lot of conversations about anxiety when approaching multimodal projects—specifically, anxiety over how to tackle revision. I’ve felt that anxiety myself; developing a philosophy on multimodal revision, a necessity within a portfolio-based writing program, can be tricky. What does substantive revision look like for a multimodal project? What do you emphasize as the end-goal of multimodal revision? And what do you do with multimodal assignments that are difficult to revise within the course’s timeframe?

While everyone’s approach varies with context (and often even by assignment!), here are a few tips for facilitating and framing multimodal revision:

Scaffolding the Revision Process

Assignment sequences that allow you to pace out feedback and the timeline for revision can make the whole process much less daunting, both for you and your students. To scaffold the revision process into your course design, you might…

  1. Consider dividing projects into preliminary draftsPreliminary drafts are often easier for students to revise; they’re much more malleable, and students are often more receptive to feedback during the drafting stage. This also helps focus your feedback, which can be geared toward students actualizing their project. You might have shorter assignments that ask students to first create scripts, storyboards, mock-ups, “minimum viable product” drafts, or pitches, depending on the nature of their multimodal project.
  2. Create opportunities for peer review during the drafting process

    Similarly, incorporating peer review into the earlier stages of drafting provides students with concrete insight into how their project is working and where they could make adjustments. These early interventions create a more collaborative class environment and make it easier to resist the urge to backload revision at the end of the course.
  3. Set clear expectations for revision and articulate them before feedbackPotentially as early as in your syllabus, in your first few class sessions, or within the assignment prompt itself, you might find it helpful to clearly state what goals and expectations the class will have with revision. What does substantial multimodal revision look like for your course? For an assignment? If this is a question that you want your class to negotiate from project to project, what general, core expectations might you let these individual negotiations stem from?
  4. Consider crowd-sourcing assessment criteria with your classNot only does this create space for students to more actively and equitably engage with their own assessment, but establishing a communal vocabulary for assessment can make understanding and incorporating feedback easier for students. It can also make peer review more effective, as well. You might begin with the course outcomes and ask students to brainstorm what these outcomes would look like specifically for the assignment, or you might have students assess a past sample together.

Process Over Product

In framing revision, it can be helpful to emphasize gaining and understanding new skills over producing perfect final products—this allows students to experiment with genres they may not feel like they have mastery over and places the focus on growth, student choice, and active use of course outcomes.

  1. Use reflection prompts or revision plans.These encourage students to demonstrate knowledge of course outcomes and concepts, as well as to explain their rhetorical choices as composers. Revision plans create space for students to explain what they would revise if they had time or were asked to do so; revision plans keep the focus on the process of learning multimodal composition and negotiating feedback with questions of rhetorical effectiveness, while acknowledging the time constraints of the course (“If I had more time to work with this project, I would…”). Additionally, these types of assignments tie in well with the goals of the final portfolio and incorporating metacognition.
  2. Provide multiple opportunities for students to reflect at different stages of the composing processReflecting across a project’s composition helps students break down the creative process and see how feedback, revision, and trial and error shaped their work. Ask students to focus on the effects of their compositional choices and incorporate evidence from their compositions.

Giving Feedback to Multimodal Assignments

Sometimes, anxieties about facilitating multimodal revision are tied to broader anxieties about giving feedback on multimodal projects. In addition to emphasizing process over product, here are a few things that might demystify the feedback process:

  1. Be aware of time managementMultimodal pieces often take more time to grade, but it’s important to experience the piece in full—the pace at which the audience engages with the material is a rhetorical aspect of the text. You might try to develop systems for responding quickly and effectively to multimodal texts, like taking screenshots or marking areas to return to after your first viewing.
  2. Consider Higher Order Concerns for multimodal feedbackWith multimodal projects, keeping tabs on how much revision you’re guiding students toward can make your feedback more straightforward and their revision process less overwhelming. Like in any other composition classes, use rhetorical principles to guide your comments. With HOC in mind, you might focus feedback on:
    • The composition’s effectiveness in addressing the rhetorical situation
    • Where the composition could better meet the requirements of the assignment or tie to the course’s overall goals and conversations
    • How effectively the composition uses multiple modes symbiotically, rather than considering the modes separately in your feedback. Does the composition combine appropriate modalities effectively to communicate the piece’s purpose? Or do the multiple modes overlap in ineffective, redundant ways or seem extraneous?

An effective, consistent feedback system and scaffolding revision into your course are just a few of the larger approaches that you can take to make multimodal revision a little less intimidating in the composition classroom. Let us know in the comments if you’ve got any tried and true approaches to framing multimodal revision to add to this conversation!

For further reading, check out these sources that helped inform this post:

–A. Gilbert