Burnett, Frazee, Hanggi, Madden, “A Programmatic Ecology of Assessment”

Burnett, Rebecca E., Andy Frazee, Kathleen Hangii, and Amanda Madden. “A Programmatic Ecology of Assessment: Using a Common Rubric to Evaluate Multimodal Processes and Artifacts” Computers and Composition 31.1 (2014): 53-66.

This terrible piece of scholarship attempts to design an assessment model around a rubric that can assess multimodal projects across assignments, courses, and programs. The rubric, as they write, operates in conjuncture with the ecology of assessment; they theorize what they call programmatic ecology of assessment. Such a programmatic view sees assessment “going beyond the classroom” (55).

They write, ”we have found that a programmatic rubric allows for longitudinal assessment of both vertical engagement (students develop increasing disciplinary competence with practice over time….) and horizontal engagement (students are affected by a ‘wider range of factors than students’ engagement in a particular discipline or undergraduate curriculum’) (55). The rubric functions to offer a common language for educators and students to work with as they compose multimodally.

Unfortunately, while the authors recognize the richness of multimodal composition—and that many students compose multimodally outside of the classroom—their rubric reduces such composing into categories that privilege print-based epistemologies. For example, their only contribution to composing with media is a category labeled “design for medium” where they place “comprehensibility and usability” of the medium under this category’s purview. The other four categories privilege prose-like writing (highlighting organizational structure, argument, evidence, and analysis, and conventions).  More, as I’ve mentioned, they’ve recognized students composing outside of school, but the rubric effectively schoolifies such composing by framing it within such print epistemologies while simultaneously displacing the process of self-assessment and composing by providing a document that does that work for them.

This article is the worst our field can do in terms of both multimodal composing and writing assessment. It would work well as an point of departure to talk about more productive multimodal assessment frameworks, ones that cater more to student learning rather than cutting assessment time down for teachers.


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