Multimodal Mondays: Adding Students' Voices to Re-Negotiate Writing in Composition and Beyond College

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142953_Bohannon_Pic.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Jeanne Law Bohannon (see end of post for bio).


I know the semester has started when my Twitter feed fills with colleagues sharing innovative assignments alongside anxious reports of other conversations, mainly about "what counts as writing?"  Just last week Andrea responded to a tweet about one such interaction:


There are so many of us who flinch when we read tweets like this one, and my voice is but one among those many; but, I would like to use my space this week to offer a mini-bibliography of the important multimodal work folks are doing with their classes and posting in the Macmillan Community.  I also want to introduce other voices into this conversation: students.  After all, their growth as professional writers is why we do this, right?


What do Writing Students Say about Composing Multi-Modally?
When we design and implement multimodal writing assignments in our classes, we understand that we are also trying to measure students' learning and rhetorical growth.  But do students understand this impetus, and more importantly, do they agree that multimodal composing prepares them for that growth just as well or even better than traditional essay writing?  Last year I conducted a couple of IRB-approved case studies in multimodal-writing driven courses with upper division students (in-major) as well as with first-year writers (STEM majors) at my large public, state university.  Here are snapshots of their attitudes towards multimodal writing and why they think it's an important skillset to practice in college and beyond.


Upper-Division Students:

Six out of eight (75%) students preferred digital writing (blogs, wikis, social media, videos, podcasts) to print writing.  The two who reported as neutral cited lack of exposure to multimodal writing in their responses. 


Students reflected on their responses:


" In today's world we [are] destined to write in digital spaces.  There are so many different places in our field dealing with digital spaces that [it] is very important to be able to access and utilize these places."


"Writing in digital spaces is growing to be the main way to communicate both professionally and socially. To be heard properly, you need to know how to communicate in a digital space. I want to be the best I can be and get my message across as clearly as possible."


" I recognize the trend and appreciate the practical necessity of adapting the art of writing for digital spaces."


Seven out of eight (88%) students answered that they believe multimodal writing prepares them for careers after they leave college.


Seven out of eight students agreed or strongly agreed that they would enter into a job market where multimodal writing skills were valued.


Six out of eight students agreed or strongly agreed that they would enter into a job market where multimodal writing skills were necessary.


Students' overall reflections on the practicality of multimodal writing assignments:


" I think is it necessary to include multimodal writing in college courses.  Print used to be the main guideline for writing, but in today's world it is essential to be able to communicate through multimodal elements."


" I think is it necessary to include multimodal writing in college courses.  Print used to be the main guideline for writing, but in today's world it is essential to be able to communicate through multimodal elements."


First-Year Writers:

Responding specifically to vlogs as writing assignments, 15 students answered as follows:


100% of students reported that producing vlogs met the same learning outcomes as writing traditional essays


87% believed that vlogging made them interrogate their writing practices more intently.


Across three overarching questions about learning in a writing course focused on multimodal writing, students answered:


My Reflections

These reported student voices just add to the plethora of empirical and anecdotal research that instructors have done over many years of encouraging multimodal composing in writing courses.  I hope that the student voices from my studies do encourage colleagues to try-on multimodal writing opportunities and develop their own to share in our community. Together, we can continue to make the case for the value of multimodal writing across courses, grade levels, and workplaces. 


Get Involved!

Inspired by Carolyn Lengel's post, How We Write Now, that recounts Andrea's literacy and writing research spanning decades, as well as Traci Gardner's post on Social Media Re/Mix, I want to re/share posts with measurable writing assignments from this blog and invite community members to try them out, then get a conversation going about what worked and what didn't to make them better.  I want us together to be able to argue  "what counts as writing" using evidence from these outcomes-based assignments.  One of my favorites is Amanda Gaddam's Visual Rhetorics Analysis, where she invites students to develop visual writing skills through political discourse.  Caitlin Kelly's post on Listicles for Information Literacy provides students with opportunities to demonstrate critical source-finding skills using a trending genre in new media writing.  I have also shared composition assignments from my classes on this blog since 2014, many of them crowd-sourced with students.  Some of the most-read posts include: Twitter as Writing Invention; Re/Mixing Academic Essays as Youtube Videos; and Student's Choice Multimodal Writing Drop-in. You can find countless more robust assignments by searching the Macmillan Community or even just Googling "Multimodal Mondays."

Please try out these assignments and tag me back to talk about them.  Or send me your own and lets talk about those!

For more information on the two cases studies I mentioned, tag me in the Community, via Twitter @drbohannon_ksu, or email


Want to offer feedback, comments, and suggestions on this post? Join the Macmilan Community to get involved (it’s free, quick, and easy)!


Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor of English in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies and critical engagement pedagogies; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: mailto:jeanne_bohannon@kennesaw.eduand

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.