Module 2, Topic 3: Assessing Multimodal Texts

What key theoretical insights about multimodality are required to effectively assess multimodal texts?

Literacy development is a social process. “Children develop and acquire spoken language as they recognise the social conventions and the cultural applications of language” (Campbell & Green, 2006, p. 148). The kinds of readers and writers children become “will be crucially influenced by the kinds of texts they are given access to and the kinds of interactions around those texts that they experience” (Unsworth, 2001,p. 183).


The Australian Curriculum (English)

In light of advances in technology and the understanding that today’s current generation of students are adept at using digital technologies (they are not just passive consumers anymore) the Australian Curriculum encourages teachers to provide students with opportunities to analyse and evaluate ways to communicate meanings through multimodal texts.  As Thomas (2008) explains it is crucial that teachers and educators provide meaningful contexts for play and explicit teaching of multimodal grammatical design.

 The Year 7 Achievement Standard states that:

“By the end of Year 7 students listen to, read and view a range of spoken, written and multimodal texts, analysing and comparing text structures and language features and vocabulary choices, to show how these shape meaning and influence readers” (Aust. Curriculum).

 Students are also expected to “create well-constructed spoken, written and multimodal texts to inform, entertain, persuade and narrate in which meaning is supported by planned structures and organisation” (Aust. Curriculum).

 “Visual Literacy is about making meaning from art, images, symbols, and the sequences and patterns of these within a text to communicate meaning. When we use the word text, we are using a distinctly multimodal definition of text – text means more than words alone, it includes picture books, films, digital texts, everyday signs and symbols, and even spaces like a museum space or a virtual world can be considered a text, as it communicates meaning” (Thomas, ESG775 blog).

Assessing a persuasive text as a multimodal text

Persuasive texts present a point of view with supporting evidence (and is often used to influence opinion or sell something). Students were explicitly taught how to write an exposition (persuasive text). For this task they were asked to draw on what they had learnt during Literacy class. The focus of assessment in class was on text organisation and content. Students were given the task to write an exposition explaining: why our school needs an indoor heated swimming pool. They were expected to:

Ÿ  Develop an argument with an introduction, body and conclusion

Ÿ  State their position (point of view)

Ÿ  Argue using supporting evidence

Ÿ  Use correct tense (present tense)

Ÿ  Use genre-specific vocabulary (emotive words and phrases and words that link the argument together)

Students were assessed through their ability to create meaning through different modes as well (visuals, animations and text).


“Assessing multimodal texts – with rigor and based on theory rather than intuition – requires an understanding of multimodal semiotics”  (Thomas, ESG775 blog).

Students need to be explicitly taught in a focussed and staged way according to the kinds of texts we want students to read and write in each grade.

 In terms of the digital aspects of the text I would be looking at assessing the following:


How the participant in the image makes contact (or not) with the viewer.

 Textual / Compositional Meanings

There are three elements to composition, or the way the image (or images) is/are spread across the page.

Ÿ  Salience – realised through: bright colours, contrasts, relative size, or the way the vectors (lines) or lighting in the image lead your eye to a particular part of the image

Ÿ  Framing – the connection between images/element

 Children: from consumers and receivers of digital texts to producers of multimedia digital texts…

The current generation of children who have access to resources for creating multimodal texts encourages learning of the high end skills and creativity in approach that will equip them to use more sophisticated platforms in the future.

“Children are creating and managing their own online communities, participating in online fan fiction communities, creating role-playing web forums, creating, writing for and editing their own zines (web magazines) and are publishing their own multimedia weblogs, including photoblogs and pod casts” (Thomas, 2008, p. 1).




Australian Curriculum

Campbell, R. & Green, D. (2006) Chapter 7: Writing: purposeful and creative expression in Literacies and Learners: current perspectives. Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia, pp 142-162.



Thomas, A. (2008). Machinima: Composing 3D Multimedia Narratives. In: Unsworth, L. [Ed]. New Literacies and the English Curriculum: Multimodal Perspectives. London, Continuum.

Unsworth, L. (2001)


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