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Fisch, Audrey A. Multimodal Approach to Class Introductions. TETYC, Dec. 2020. Posted 02/27/2021.

Fisch, Audrey A. “Rethinking Class Introductions.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College 48.2 (2020): 239-49. Print.

In an “Instructional Note,” Audrey A. Fisch proposes an approach to the traditional first-day student introduction process in a first-year writing class. Her assignments focus on students’ achievements and strengths and include a multimodal component.

Fisch cites research arguing that many students suffer from “imposter syndrome” that may even be triggered after the students arrive on college campuses as the academic environment undermines their prior views of themselves (240). Affirming students’ abilities and “belongingness” (240) in the new environment, Fisch reports, is essential to healthy learning (239). Her introduction assignment is designed to promote the kind of classroom community that will support student achievement in the face of the challenges offered by the new environment.

The class represented in Fisch’s discussion took place in 2019 at New Jersey City University, an institution developed as “Hispanic-serving and . . . minority-serving” (240). The student body is diverse, with 19% white, 24% Black, 39% Hispanic, and 8% Asian. Graduation and retention rates for four- and six-year measures are lower than average, and 75% of “first-time, full-time, first-year students” receive Pell Grants (240). Fisch cites as well the logistical challenges facing many students, such as arduous commutes and family and work demands.

The initial component of the “intervention” to promote student confidence and classroom community is a twenty-minute session in which each student interviews a classmate (241-42). Fisch provides specific questions; students may pick which questions to include and may “go off topic” if they wish (241). Questions ask about “personal strengths” and prior achievements as well as “best/favorite academic moments” (241). Further options include opportunities to relate moments facing or overcoming adversity and family pressures related to educational choices (242).

Each student must then generate a ninety-second class introduction to the person they interviewed (242-43). Fisch notes that the ninety-second limit at first may make the report look less threatening but actually serves to encourage students to think about the careful choices required to present a picture in such a short time (242). The students being introduced, in Fisch’s view, have a chance to see themselves as someone who isn’t familiar with them perceives them as a result of the interview.

Following the introductions, students receive a homework assignment to create a ninety-second video about themselves. Students use FlipGrid, a “super easy, free technology” that even people who are not computer experts can use (243). Again, the ninety-second limit creates an incentive to think carefully about what to include, such as “key pieces of one’s story” and “meaningful details” (243). The videos can include “props, music, and setting” to emphasize the information the students wish to project (243).

The videos are discussed and peer-reviewed on the second class day, after which students are asked for “a more traditional college writing task: a reflective writing exercise” (244-45). Fisch provides quotes from several students noting what the students felt they learned from the first two days’ activities. The students quoted report appreciating being able to “open up” to others, to make friends, and to recognize “how unique and how accomplished” they are when asked to examine their pasts in “a positive light.” Students also commented on how the exercise revealed the diversity and individuality of their colleagues and, in one case, how the activity resulted in a sense of the classroom as “one big, creative, and supportive family” (245-46).

Fisch argues that including the video allows students to begin the semester with a mode of communication with which they are already familiar; moreover, the multimodal component “honors students’ prior knowledge” (Christina Saidy, qtd. in Fisch 244) and expands students’ idea of the forms writing can take. Fisch notes that her assignment may help to prepare students for job applications that now often require personal video essays (244).

Fisch believes that her assignments are examples of “[s]mall [i]nterventions” (246) that help students with the “critical leap of imagination” many first-time college students will need to “craft a new, university persona” (239).


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VanKooten, Crystal. Meta-awareness through video composition. CE, Sept. 2016. Posted 11/03/2016.

VanKooten, Crystal. “‘The video was what did it for me’: Developing Meta-Awareness about Composition across Media.” College English 79.1 (2016): 57-80. Print.

Crystal VanKooten argues for the use of video composition assignments to develop students’ metacognitive awareness of composition. For her case study, conducted at a Midwestern public research university, VanKooten worked with students in two first-year writing courses in which the instructors agreed to assign the video project. She selected six students, three from each class; she reports on three women who “related or demonstrated movement toward meta-awareness about composition” by participating in activities and discussions connected with the assignment (64).

VanKooten observed and videoed classes in each section during the assignment, conducted student interviews at the beginning of the course, after the assignment was completed, and at the end of the course, and gathered materials, including the video drafts and final products as well as various reflective documents, such as a final reflective essay in one of the classes (64-65). She reports using a “grounded theory approach” which allowed her to “derive meaning from the data itself” (65). She particularly looked for “observable” evidence of meta-awareness that would shed light on how making videos affected students’ approaches to composition (63).

Noting that the video assignment accords with composition’s tradition of embracing new learning experiences and tools as well as the field’s interest in multimodality (59), VanKooten theorizes that the video effectively raised meta-awareness in her study in part because it presented students with “obstacles”; VanKooten cites John Dewey to contend that encountering obstacles is “educative” in that obstacles lead to “action, effort, and interest” (60). She argues that these responses to the video project enhanced meta-awareness about composition, which she defined as

a student’s ability to move consistently between enacting multimodal compositional choices and articulating how and why those choices are effective or ineffective within a rhetorical context. (58)

Making a video, she states, “highlights” and “makes more obvious” important “rhetorically layered actions” that make up the composition process (59; emphasis original). These actions are “orienting and reorienting” to new processes demanded by different media; “addressing multiple audiences and purposes”; and “examining and shifting parts of a text in order to revise the whole” (61). The video project introduced obstacles into these processes, requiring effort, which engendered “a conscious knowledge of purposes and . . . evaluation of thoughts and actions,” which in turn increased meta-awareness (62).

VanKooten cites Gregory Schraw to categorize aspects of “general metacognitive awareness” as “knowledge of cognition” and “regulation of cognition.” Knowledge may be “declarative (knowing about things),” “procedural (knowing how to do things),” and “conditional,” which means the ability to judge when declarative or procedural knowledge is appropriate (62). Regulation of cognition involves “planning, monitoring, and evaluation” (62).

Finally, effort and metacognitive awareness were supplemented by increased interest, which encouraged more engagement and reflection (62-63).

VanKooten provides examples of the actions and interview responses of the three case-study students. (Lauren and Marlee allowed Van Kooten to use their real names [79n1]). Lauren found the video assignment “fun” because of the many different activities involved (qtd. in VanKooten 66), a comment that VanKooten sees as an indicator of increased interest. Lauren’s desire to communicate her support for arts funding led her to consider broader audiences and ways to use the video components to attract these additional viewers.

In VanKooten’s analysis, this communicative effort led Lauren to consider her purpose more carefully, which in turn encouraged her to examine more closely how different elements of her video contributed to the whole. In these ways, VanKooten argues, Lauren demonstrated both declarative and conditional knowledge, making decisions about “how and why” to apply her understanding of the elements of video production (67). Such evaluative actions also demonstrate “regulation of cognition,” in VanKooten’s view.

Lauren connected the video experience with written composition by noting the importance of revision, which she equated with editing her video and deemed “essential” in both media (qtd. in VanKooten 67).

Marlee also demonstrated engagement with the video process, stating that “I didn’t want to do any of my other homework” (qtd. in VanKooten 68). In VanKooten’s analysis, Marlee also responded to the opportunity to address “actual audiences beyond the classroom” with her video on a summer-camp experience (69). Members of Marlee’s peer audience found the video effects Marlee combined “cool” (69), a reaction that VanKooten believes motivated her to work on the project but that also underscored the “unique” power of video to foreground “layered modes of expression” (69).

VanKooten finds that the sensory appeal of video that Marlee encountered both in her own work and in that of her classmates also enhanced her desire to experiment with a wide range of options and to collaborate with other video authors in class workshops (69-70). Marlee’s descriptions of her engagement further illustrated what VanKooten calls “educative play” that “digital space” facilitates, demonstrating the effects of the medium on the author’s responses (70). Like Lauren, Marlee expressed awareness of the connections between her video work and a written project, for example in her understanding of the importance of “completion” as a way of unifying the message of a project and of using transitions to link parts to the whole (70).

“Logan” had more difficulty “orient[ing]” to the video medium, partly because she had not previously used a video camera (72-73). VanKooten argues that this kind of reaction is an indication of “how video composition makes strange the traditional writing space” (73). Logan writes, “Because I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to work harder” (qtd. in VanKooten 73). In particular, according to VanKooten, Logan focused on goal setting, a strategy that she ultimately extended both to written composition and to personal needs such as planning her college career (75). VanKooten finds that, like the other students, Logan developed her ability to revise to communicate with her audience, regulating her cognition by “monitor[ing] and evaluat[ing]” her process (74).

VanKooten notes that many of the behaviors she recounts were not “observable” but rather were “self-reported during interviews” (76). Also, the evidence of transfer acquired  from the interviews could not be confirmed (77). VanKooten suggests that “[a]lternate research methods” might make student actions more visible, and encourages more self-reflective components in such assignments, including “repeatedly prompting” to raise students’ meta-awareness of their actions (77).

Although she states that a video assignment alone will not necessarily result in these benefits, VanKooten argues that writing programs should incorporate more multimodal assignments because they introduce obstacles requiring more effort and metacognitive development. She offers suggestions for instructors without access to video equipment who wish to incorporate multimodal projects in their classrooms (77).