Professional Development

While we found the marriage of multimodal instruction and multimodal composition assignments to be a successful endeavor, we ran into several challenges and a few limitations. When developing the course, the curriculum design team had a theoretical understanding and experience in teaching multimodal composition. However, several of the teachers brought into the course were new to multimodal composing and had not previously assessed multimodal assignments. Additionally, several of the teachers were limited in their abilities to develop instructional texts outside of print-based documents. The Writers' Studio team provided professional development workshops that covered a wide range of topics from teaching and assessing multimodal composing to developing instructional videos through Web 2.0 technologies. The members from the instructional team met one-on-one with new teachers to give them extra help navigating the course tools. In addition, the instructional team met with instructors frequently throughout the semester to discuss such topics as how to successfully interact with students in and outside the course.

In addition to developing course materials through multimodal instruction, teachers needed support on grading a variety of genres in response to one writing assignment. For example, many teachers had been accustomed to requiring all students to produce essays; in the redesigned course some students produced print-based genres (e.g. newspaper articles, brochures, newsletters) while others produced a variety of web-based genres (websites and blogs) or sound projects. It was critical to revisit the rhetorical concepts driving each project and provide clear scoring guides that offered the flexibility for students to select a genre appropriate for the audience, purpose, and rhetorical situation; therefore, we led assessment workshops that focused on assisting instructors in grading and providing feedback to students on multimodal projects and portfolios.

As mentioned previously, our courses offered revision feedback using digital tools to students as shown in the example below; however, many instructors did not have previous experience using screencasting programs like Camtasia and Jing or audio editing programs like Audacity. Regular meetings and training sessions were held to provide teachers with the needed support in using these technologies. We used the technologies not only to offer feedback to students, but also to show instructors how to offer feedback via screencast and audio files; we encouraged teachers to keep their feedback under five minutes and focus on higher-order concerns that would help students revise for the final portfolio.