The final leg of my work in examining threshold concepts and strategies for learning instruction led into the creation of an assignment that not only pays respect to ENGL 1101 learning outcomes but actively considers those concepts as well. This scaffolded assignment itself is also the last step of the scaffolding we’ve followed over the last several months. From an analysis of threshold concepts to an analysis of extant syllabi from practicing professors to this: the blending of those two undertakings to present my own understanding of English course design and instruction.
First-year composition exists to the detriment of students everywhere insofar as it’s a required course that literally no one wants to take. I’d like to structure my course in such a way that my students can find a use for this class in the future. This is the guiding philosophy that convinced me to give students the freedom to write about a topic they’re interested in. Ideally, they’ll choose either a personal or professional interest, and academically interacting with these topics before they dive into the bulk of their majors is, in my opinion, the best way to prepare them.
Step 1: Research (15%) [Week 1]
Pose a research question and compile relevant sources.
Use a mixture of academic documents and credible websites to gather information relevant to your research question. For non-academic sources, include an annotated bibliography to justify their use in your paper.
Step 2: Composition (30%) [Week 2]
Construct your paper.
Write your paper. There is no requirement for a minimum number of sources. Use your best judgment to determine a) how many sources are required and b) how much from each source is necessary to effectively answer your research question.
Step 3: Peer Review (15%) [Week 3]
Conduct a peer review of two of your classmates’ papers.
As you read through the papers, consider what you think works well and what doesn’t. For your own benefit, you might create a list of these things and see if they appear in your own writing. Also consider what emotions you feel as you read and if the paper provides new insights for you. How well does it communicate those insights. You can also consult the worksheet on what to look for in peer reviews for further points of interest. Lastly, comment on at least one audience you believe the information delivered in the paper would be most useful to.
Step 4: Modal Shift (30%) [Week 5]
Modify your research to include multimodality with audience in mind.
Consider an audience for whom the information in your research paper would be useful. Add multimodal elements and/or restructure the general modality of your paper to appeal to that given audience. For example, an elementary/middle grade audience may respond best to a PowerPoint whereas an audience at a museum may find a brochure more digestible. Include a brief summary of the changes you made and why you made them.
Step 5: Research Presentation (10%) [Week 5]
Present your multimodal composition to the class.
Integrating multimodal elements into your compositions in an increasingly valuable skill in the digital age. Everything from personal tweets to advertisements to the arrangement of your favorite store incorporates various modes of communication to affect your perception of one thing or another. Regardless what elements of multimodality you implemented in your project, there should have been clear rationales for these decisions. In less than ten minutes, explain to the class how and why you chose the modal devices you used.
Evaluation and Closing Thoughts
I’ve envisioned two separate rubrics for this assignment: one for the written portion and one for the multimodal augmentation. Both are below.
My rubrics are designed to push students to focus on the content of their essay over issues in grammar and syntax. This shows more strongly in the multimodal rubric, where the entire evaluation is content-based.
I’m looking forward to continue reworking this project and eventually assigning it to students. I’m certain I’ll have as much to learn through the process of revising my own work as they will working through the process of composition.