by Caroline Chan and Suzanne Choo
Our students today are exposed to a wide range of media-rich texts on a daily basis. Teaching and assessment can no longer just be focused on the printed word.
Our examination of secondary English language comprehension passages raised two key concerns: rigidity in the choice of reading passages, and a lack of emphasis on critical thinking skills in the type of questions asked.
We need to consider other forms of texts, which have a combination of words, images, sound and video. We propose a framework for multimodal assessment of reading comprehension.
A Multimodal Assessment Framework
When assessing multimodal texts, there are three key outcomes that students must demonstrate: text analysis, author analysis, and context analysis.
Consider the following TV commercial:
Figure 1. TV commercial “Tan Hong Ming in Love”. (If you are unable to view the video, click here.)
The first stage of analysis begins with students demonstrating knowledge of the given text.
Theme/subject. This question deals with students’ understanding of the main subject matter. The answer is usually obvious.
Obvious content. This question goes beyond a general understanding of the text and requires students to look for evidence. This is still considered lower order as students are only required to identify one or two keywords.
Inferred content. This question requires students to think about the connotative meaning of particular words or phrases in the text. Students have to infer the reasons or intention behind a particular statement made by a character or the author.
Connected content. For this question, students need to locate information from different parts of the text. They may need to find more than one example to support their point.
Connected-inferred content. Students are required not only to find the evidence but, more importantly, interpret the evidence by suggesting the reasons or intention implied behind what is observed.
While text analysis centres on the text and the information derived from it, author analysis moves a step out of the domain of the text to consider the influence of the author.
Identification of explicit claim. Here, students have to identify the explicit claim the author is making through the text. The answer is usually obvious.
Identification of implicit claim. Sometimes a claim may be manifested in more subtle ways, such as through visuals, colour, setting or word associations in the text.
Analysis of arguments. Analysis of the author’s claims may reveal the following:
- Assumptions and speculations: where there is insufficient supporting evidence
- Generalizations: where people or situations are stereotyped into general categories
- Logical fallacies: where there is an absence of a logical link between the evidence given and the point made
Analysis of style. This requires students to identify the stylistic techniques in the areas of language (e.g., figurative language and word order and design) and the link between images and words used to convey an intended effect.
The final component of the assessment framework moves beyond the text and its author to view historical influences, the present society and the larger world.
Analysis of audience representation. Students must first identify the target group and their respective category (e.g., age group, gender, race, political association).
Analysis of thematic representation. Students could examine this in the light of these questions:
- Product association: What value, habit, skill or lifestyle is this commercial associated with?
- Possible effects of the commercial: What are some of the positive as well as harmful effects this commercial may have on consumers who overuse/ subscribe to it?
- Alternative perspective: How can this text be given a more balanced perspective, providing both the pros and cons of the commercial? What other information has been excluded but should be included.
A Paradigm Shift
The inclusion of a framework for multimodal assessment involves a shift in the mindset of educators. But we will find that our students are better able to critically read other forms of texts in the real world, as they apply reading skills learned and assessed in the classroom.
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