Professionals need the ability to write effectively, and for many, they will need to do so in English. However, writing, in the digital age is so much more than combining words and sentences in a meaningful way. For example, communicating on social media frequently involves combining images, videos, text, speech, gestures and other such forms of representation or “modes”.
In recent years, scholars in language education and second language writing studies have focused on how teachers could account for these kinds of digital communication forms. One possible approach is known as Digital Multimodal Composing (DMC). In this approach, as well as working on traditional writing skills, students also work on their digital writing skills. They use digital tools to create “multimodal” products like videos, which combine multiple modes of expression such as writing, images and sounds.
One challenge for English teachers is how to assess these multimodal compositions, which go beyond expression through language alone. Dr Christoph HAFNER and Dr Jenifer HO, both from the Department of English of CityU’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, investigated this issue by interviewing teachers on a CityU course in English for science, about how they assess students’ digital video scientific documentaries.
The study found that, as well as evaluating criteria like organisation and language, teachers also focused on creativity and originality, students’ delivery or on-screen performance, and students’ ability to combine different modes in the video to coherently express their ideas. The analysis also suggested that DMC assessment should be process-oriented, with a mix of formative and summative assessment strategies to support students in different stages of the writing process: pre-design, design, sharing and reflecting.
The study has implications for language and literacy educators who want to use a multimodal approach to prepare students for the more complex worlds of digital writing that often await them in the workplace.
View a sample scientific documentary by students
Publications and achievements
• Hafner, C. A., & Ho, W.Y.J. (2020). Assessing Digital Multimodal Composing in Second Language Writing: Towards a Process-based Model. Journal of Second Language Writing, 47. DOI: 10.1016/j.jslw.2020.100710
• Hafner, C. A., & Miller, L. (2018). English in the Disciplines: A Multidimensional Model for ESP Course Design. (Routledge Research in English for Specific Purposes). London: Routledge. DOI: 10.4324/9780429452437