Review of Toward a Composition Made Whole by Jody Shipka

Reviewed by Brandy Dieterle, University of Central Florida

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Chapter 5: Negotiating rhetorical, technological, and methodological difference

In this chapter, Jody Shipka (2011) proposed an approach for assessing texts that focused on responding to a wide range of texts and rhetorical activities, whereas other scholarship (see Sorapure, 2006; Zoetewey & Staggers, 2003), she explained, tended to focus on evaluating a single type of text, such as a visual/verbal collage. Shipka's approach differed from methods proposed by other scholars mentioned here in three main ways: (a) In addition to assessing a text overall, Shipka's approach considered the various rhetorical actions and activities that went into the development of the text; (b) Her approach involved assessing a variety of forms of texts in response to one assignment prompt; (c) Shipka also argued for students to develop goal statements where they describe, evaluate, and argue for their own texts.

The bulk of this chapter focused on the goal statement, which Shipka used to help her assess assignments. As explained in the Summary, the goal statement helped to answer "how, why, and under what conditions" (p. 113) students composed their texts. Moreover, Shipka explained the goal statement also helped her in "both navigating and responding to texts" (p. 113) she might otherwise be unfamiliar with. Although this sounds very similar to traditional reflective writing that students do, Shipka made a point to address how the goal statement extended the traditional reflection. The goal statement anticipated that the texts would not necessarily be print-based, and as a result, students must consider a wide range of choices made. The task was formal in the sense that it was worth 50% of the student's grade; these documents tended to be much longer and more detailed because they were worth just as much as the final product produced. Also, the goal statements did not need to be print-based texts, even though they typically were for Shipka's students, and the questions asked students to think about their texts from a mediated activity perspective. Ultimately, the goal statement aimed to bring to consciousness the dynamic process of communication and, quoting LeCourt (1998), "to make the invisible visible so that it can be acted on differently" (as cited in Shipka, 2011, p. 128). In this chapter, Shipka also acknowledged that she cannot say whether her students will compose texts in the future similar to the ones composed for her classes. Rather, Shipka stated "I can say, however, with a bit more certainty that they will likely be required to conduct research (whether on scholarly, workplace, or 'everyday' phenomena), to solve as well as to find or identify problems, and to represent their findings and solutions to others" (emphasis in original, p. 128).

Even though Shipka stated how much weight the goal statement had in the assignment grade, it would have been more helpful to me, as a reader, if she had provided concrete strategies for assessing multimodal texts or even the goal statements. Readers who are newcomers to multimodal composition may similarly be seeking a rubric or other guide for assessment.

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