Charlton, “The Weight of Curious Space”

Chartlon, Colin. “The Weight of Curious Space: Rhetorical Events, Hackerspace, and Emergent Multimodal Assessment” Computers and Composition 31.1 (2014): 29-42.

Charlton confronts the question of feedback in a changing writing environment, one that embraces more public interaction as curriculum embraces multimodal aspects of composing. The public-ness and focus on multimodality prompts teachers to rethink their assessment strategies. He writes, “when we invite students to experiment with form, we invite ourselves as teachers to experiment with feedback, cirtieria, and assessment” (41). What he proposes is the implementation of an “immersive feedback environment that would quickly foreground rhetorical choices and make those choices seem inescapably normal to students” (31). In other words, he specifically looks to building and designing assessment spaces that “let rhetorical assessment happen” (31). As Charlton writes, inventive space brings out key values of rhetorical assessment, particularly the ability to foster collaboration and negotiation among teachers, community members, and other intended or unintended audiences. This assessment is developed to foreground the act of listening.His assessment framework is designed around 4 points; such a framework

  1. Demonstrates how meaningful assessment is alive and subject to change;
  2. Incorporates reflection on intention and articulation;
  3. Explores how the necessary tension between known forms, adapted forms, and hybrid forms foreground rhetorical choices in composition; and
  4. Recognizes the risk taken in compelling texts and incorporates assessment of how a technology, form, or assemblage might function in terms of their multimodal potentials.

Reflection (via articulation of values, both expected and reflection-in-action) is a key component for this assessment framework. Students are asked to reflect upon what they want to learn, make, and how they want to interact and make connections with other through form and delivery. When staging their projects (and staging the interaction with others, involving feedback) “students begin to experience the articulation and rearticulation of their questions to unfamiliar audiences. They begin to make judgments about the values floating around” (35).

Charlton also aligns this assessment framework closely to dynamic criteria mapping (though sometimes seems like a misplaced alignment). When staging interactions with others, the field of experience (such as photographers, graphic designers, newspaper editors) is developed through the “juxtaposition of respondents.” He continues: “by working with multiple people in multiple disciplines and through varied conversations, they had to assess their contexts and rhetorical articulations over and over again with real time feedback” (37).

The feedback circulating within these spaces become fodder to negotiate rubric criteria. “But the rubric, rather than a final grid that allows me to categorize…will be a gravity for negotiation and collaborative evaluation during the second half of the class” (37).


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