Chapter 5: A Pedagogy of Teaching for Transfer across Media
Drawing on my own definition of transfer across media and from my analysis of the student and instructor data presented in previous sections, I offer a set of five best practices for teaching for transfer across media. The best practices speak directly to the final research question that guided this study: what is the role of teaching practices in transfer across media? Overall, the experiences of the participants demonstrate that certain teaching practices that include the use of video composition, coordinated assignments, scaffolded reflection, and formative assessments have significant influence on whether, how, and when students enact a process of transfer across media.
This video summarizes the five best practices for teaching transfer across media. After the video, I flesh out the best practices in more detail using prose, linking the practices to particular pieces of data in the study.
Five best practices for teaching for transfer across media.
The song used in this video is by Pitx, Creative Commons license BY.
|[No audio]||White text appears on a black screen, reading "5 Best Practices for teaching transfer across media".|
|Crystal: Based on the student and instructor experiences in this study, how might we best teach for transfer across media? I offer five best practices to consider.||Crystal is shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones. When she says "5 best practices," she holds up 5 fingers, and the words "5 Best Practices" appear on the bottom right corner of the screen.|
|Crystal: Best practice number one: ask students to write and compose using a variety of media, tools, and technologies for different rhetorical situations and contexts.||Crystal is again shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones. When she begins speaking about the first best practice, she holds up one finger. The words "Best Practice #1" appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. This is quickly replaced by "Use a variety of media".|
|Crystal: When transfer across media is defined as a process of considering, reusing or choosing not to use, applying,||An over-the-shoulder view is shown of students working on editing videos on laptops. The students are sitting at desks in a computer lab classroom.|
|Crystal: and adapting compositional knowledge through various digital and non-digital technologies and within the surrounding practices and norms of the compositional context,||The camera cuts to a view of students observing their instructor as she teaches. She is standing at the front of a computer lab classroom as she gestures to a projector screen to emphasize her point. The words "Kelly's class" appear on the top left corner of the screen.|
|Crystal: it follows that students must be asked to learn about and use various digital and non-digital technologies for writing.||Four students are shown in that same classroom, gathered around one laptop as they work together on their video project. The words "Kelly's class" appear on the top left corner of the screen.|
|Crystal: I suggest that you use video composition,||Crystal is again shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones.|
|Crystal: as it is a particularly generative, enjoyable, and easy to learn multimodal composing space for many authors.||Kelly is shown helping a small group of students in her classroom, as they are all gathered around a laptop discussing the video project. The words "Kelly's class" appear on the top left corner of the screen.|
|Crystal: Best practice number two: use digital media composition before, alongside, and after more traditional alphabetic composition assignments.||Crystal is again shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones. When she begins speaking about the second best practice, she holds up two fingers. The words "Best Practice #2" appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. This is quickly replaced by "Use digital media at various times".|
|Crystal: Because transfer across media requires the movement of knowledge across and among modes, technologies, and platforms,||Two students are shown in an over-the-shoulder view in a computer lab classroom. They are working together on one laptop as they edit a video. In the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Julie's class".|
|Crystal: not solely a one-directional move from, say, prose writing to digital media, it is wise to assign digital media composition in several places within a course curriculum.||Two different students, Gerry and D'mitria, are shown in an over-the-shoulder view in a computer lab classroom. They are working together on one laptop as they edit a video. In the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Julie's class".|
|Crystal: Design assignments and activities that work together to support transfer.||Crystal is again shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones.|
|Crystal: Whatever model you choose, though, be purposeful about how the assignments and activities work together to support students in considering, reusing, choosing not to use, applying, or adapting their knowledge.||Two different students are shown in an over-the-shoulder view in a computer lab classroom. They are working together on desktop computers as they edit a video. In the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Julie's class".|
|Crystal: Best practice number three:||Crystal is again shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones. When she begins speaking about the third best practice, she holds up three fingers. The words "Best Practice #3" appear in the bottom left corner of the screen.|
|Crystal: support the development of different kinds of meta-awareness about composition and different kinds of learning that might transfer. The students in this study demonstrate that meta-awareness about composition is multifaceted,||John is shown in his classroom, working on a desktop computer. He is getting instruction from his professor, Lauren. They are discussing his video project on his computer. In the bottom right corner, text reads "support different kinds of learning", and in the top left, text reads "Lauren's class".|
|Crystal: and can center on process, rhetoric, techniques, intercomparativity, and the writerly self.||Tiara is shown in Lauren's class, sitting at a desktop computer, flipping through papers in a notebook. Text in the top left corner reads "Lauren's class".|
|Crystal: Developing meta-awareness in several of these areas was a key aspect of considering compositional knowledge for students in the study, and this consideration was often a step within a transfer across media process. There are also other kinds of compositional knowledge that can transfer to new writing contexts,||Another student is shown discussing her video assignment in Lauren's class. Text in the top left corner reads "Lauren's class".|
|Crystal: such as the development of Selber's functional, critical, and rhetorical literacies. So what does this look like? Carefully prompt reflection and actions in different areas. This can be done in conferences or in writing,||Fawaz is shown in Lauren's class, sitting at a desktop computer and recieving feedback and assistance from Lauren. Text in the top left corner reads "Lauren's class".|
|Crystal: and students need to be prompted to deepen and continue their reflections over time. More useful than a specific kind or amount of reflection might be the kind of prompting offered for that reflection.||Samuel is shown working on his video project on a desktop computer in Lauren's class. He is very focused on his work. Lauren walks around and observes her students, occasionally stopping to say something to the class. Text in the top left corner reads "Lauren's class".|
|Crystal: Best practice number four: guide students in moving toward beginning and continuing multiple steps in a transfer across media process.||Crystal is again shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones. When she begins speaking about the fourth best practice, she holds up four fingers. The words "Best Practice #4" appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. This is then replaced by the words "Teach for steps in a transfer process".|
|Crystal: This may involve supporting and scaffolding processes of consideration, reuse, application, and reconstruction.||Madison is shown sitting at a desk, participating in activities in her classroom. In the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Katie's class".|
|Crystal: Specific and direct guidance and support may be especially important for those students who have not previously reused or built on their writing skills and knowledge.||Crystal is again shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones.|
|Crystal: Thus we should teach for transfer through course and assignment design and providing transfer scaffolds that could include comparative writing prompts,||Sabrina is shown in Katie's classroom, shuffling papers and occasionally looking up to the front of the room. In the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Katie's class".|
|Crystal VanKooten: for example, potential transfer lists, and documentation of materials transferred.||Crystal (the student) is shown in Katie's classroom sitting at a desk in front of chalkboards. She is laughing as she talks with her peers. In the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Katie's class".|
|Crystal: Best practice number five: use assessment as an opportunity to provide additional support for learning goals and transfer across media.||Crystal is again shown sitting in her office, speaking directly to the camera. She is smiling and wearing headphones. When she begins speaking about the fifth best practice, she holds up five fingers. The words "Best Practice #5" appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. This is then replaced by the words "Use assessment to support transfer".|
|Crystal: If our learning goals for digital media include the development of meta-awareness about composition and transfer across media,||Students are shown sitting at a round table with laptops open, discussing their video project as they work. On the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Angie's class".|
|Crystal: then assessment practices should center on these outcomes and not on the creation of a finished or professional-grade final product. While feedback on the product may still be useful for students,||Two students in Angie's class are shown sitting at round tables, focused on their laptops. They discuss video projects. On the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Angie's class".|
|Crystal: it should be paired with feedback focused on the students' learning in other areas and their overall development as a writer of different kinds of texts.||Vivian is shown sitting at a round table with her peers in Angie's class, and they are focused on their laptops. They discuss video projects. On the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Angie's class".|
|Crystal: This means we should provide students with formative feedback focused on learning that might not be visible in the final product.|
Best Practice #1
Ask students to write and compose using a variety of media, tools, and technologies for different rhetorical situations and contexts.
Why this pedagogical practice? When transfer across media is defined as a process of considering, (re)using or choosing not to use, applying, adapting compositional knowledge through various digital and non-digital technologies and within the surrounding practices and norms of the compositional context, it follows that students must be asked to learn about and use various digital and non-digital technologies for writing. These technologies might include, for example, a video editor, a text-editing program like Microsoft Word, an image editor, or hardware such as a cell phone, a pencil(!), a camera, or a microphone. Of course, writing technologies are used within differing compositional contexts that involve readers, writer(s), environments, and the texts themselves, which requires authors to consider what they know, reuse and apply useful aspects of their knowledge, choose not to use other aspects of their knowledge, and adapt and change other knowledge to become useful in a new context.
What does this look like? Use video composition. If you’ve read, watched, and listened to other sections of this eBook, you might by now be able to guess my opinion about one of the best ways to put this practice into action: use video composition in the writing classroom along with more formal written essays and informal response and reflection writing.
The experiences of the participants in this study illustrate that video is a particularly generative multimodal composing space for many authors, as it requires the use of images, sounds, and written words in combination; points to multiple outside-the-classroom audiences; and appears interesting, new, and/or fun to many student composers. Also, video editing software is becoming more and more accessible and easy to use. As instructor Lauren points out, it may not always be necessary to assign a large, time-consuming video composition project in every writing course. Smaller assignments or responses might be completed using video, or students might compose a short video as part of a bigger project, as did Lauren’s and Julie’s students. Alternatively, if you do assign a larger video project, prose writing and reflection as well as audio editing, image editing, and camera and microphone work might be part of the video assignment.
Best Practice #2
Use digital media composition before, alongside, and after more traditional alphabetic composition assignments.
Why this pedagogical practice? Because transfer across media requires the movement of knowledge across and among modes, technologies, and platforms (not solely a one-directional move from, say, prose writing to digital media), it is wise to assign digital media composition in several places within a course curriculum. As we see in Chapter 2, Sabrina experienced a robust transfer across media process in part because she composed in writing, then on video, then again in writing. As she moved from writing and researching to video and back to written essay, Sabrina considered her knowledge (what she knew about organization, for example), re-used and applied some of it (composing a similar opening and organizational scheme for the video and the final essay), and adapted other knowledge (including more research-based information in the essay and more linguistic description). The assignment sequence in her course as well as the variety of media and modes needed opened space for Sabrina to take more steps in the complex process of transfer across media.
Other students in the study, like Vivian, for example, were asked to compose several essays and then conclude their coursework with a video assignment. As we saw in Chapter 3, Vivian learned to deliberate through her video composition process, and as she did so, she developed rhetorical literacies. But her meta-awareness about composition and her movement within a process of transfer across media remained at the early step of considering knowledge as the video assignment concluded and the course ended. Students like Vivian would benefit from more time to engage in transfer across media through more opportunities to compose with and move among various technologies and contexts.
What does this look like? Design assignments and activities that work together to support transfer. Enacting this best practice could take a variety of forms. I worked with many of the teachers in this study to develop their course curricula so they felt comfortable teaching video composition for the first time, and I offered some of them lessons for teaching video or, if they desired, a fully fleshed-out audio-visual composition unit they could import into their courses and adapt as needed. As the study progressed and I began collecting more data at the second research site, my example lessons and recommendations changed based on what I was learning through the study and in my own classroom—I recommended teaching a large video assignment in the middle of the course, for example, instead of at the end. I also observed one instructor at the second site (Lauren) who was already teaching video composition and had developed her own lessons and approaches to doing so.
The five instructors in this study used the following approaches to organizing a first-year writing curriculum that included video composition:
- Ending with Video: Composing more traditional essays throughout the beginning and middle of the course and ending with a large video composition assignment (Angie’s course and Kelly’s course).
- Video in the Middle: Composing a written proposal and annotated bibliography first, doing an in-depth research video composition assignment in the middle of the course, and ending with an in-depth written research essay assignment (Katie’s course).
- Ending with a Multimedia Presentation: Composing more traditional essays throughout the beginning and middle of the course and ending with an in-depth research digital media assignment that included a one-minute video, a Prezi presentation, and an in-class presentation (Lauren’s course).
- Weaving Video into the Middle of a Written Assignment: Composing three traditional essays and a portfolio throughout the course, weaving a video assignment and class presentation into the second project, which culminated in a more traditional research write-up (Julie’s course).
Interestingly, we see some transfer across media occurring or beginning to occur in every course in this study. Katie’s “video in the middle” approach allowed students like Sabrina space to enact more steps in a process of transfer across media. While Julie’s “weaving in video” approach allowed similar space for transfer, her students did not transfer their knowledge to or from video as readily as did students in other courses, and they might have needed more explicit scaffolds for transfer. Lauren’s students demonstrated moments of transfer across media directed toward the video and multimedia presentation as they used and adapted knowledge of rhetorical appeals, analyzing audiences, organization, and citation they had worked on developing beforehand through essays. And many of Angie’s and Kelly’s students, such as Marlee, Logan, Travon, and Lauren, transferred knowledge across media even within an “ending with video” model.
The takeaway: Follow or design an organizational model that works for you, but whatever model you choose, be purposeful about how the assignments and activities work together to support students in considering, reusing, choosing not to use, applying, or adapting their knowledge.
Best Practice #3
Support the development of different kinds of meta-awareness about composition (of process, rhetoric, techniques, intercomparativity, and of writerly self) and different kinds of learning that might transfer, such as developing functional, critical, and rhetorical literacies. This support will require emphasis on both student actions and articulations.
Why this pedagogical practice? The students in this study demonstrate that meta-awareness about composition is multifaceted. Developing meta-awareness in several areas was a key aspect of considering compositional knowledge, and this consideration was often a step within a process of transfer across media. As we see throughout Chapters 2, 3, and 4, students developed meta-awareness of process through discussion and reflection (Logan, Mikayla, Sabrina, and Travon); of the writerly self through learning to value others’ points of view, building confidence, and understanding their own strengths (Gerry, Madison, and Tiara); of rhetoric through discussing audiences, rhetorical appeals, and social actions that might be useful in future writing and careers (Alan, Crystal, John, and Samuel); of writerly techniques through composing with completion, transitions, and multimodal juxtaposition (Marlee and Lauren); and of intercomparativity through discussing similarities and differences among video composition, written essays, Prezi presentations, and other media (many students). Instruction must focus on supporting the development of these and other kinds of meta-awareness about composition through both action (what students do in their compositions) and articulation (what they say about their products and knowledge).
Other kinds of compositional knowledge also can transfer to new writing contexts, such as the development of Selber’s functional, critical, and rhetorical literacies. The data and analysis in Chapter 3 make clear that some transfer of multiliteracies might occur without direct instruction, but much of it begins or is sustained when supported by class lessons and activities. The fact that the development and transfer of Selber's kind of critical literacies was missing from all the student experiences in this study demonstrates that some types of learning may not take place at all if not explicitly and repeatedly prompted.
What does this look like? Carefully prompt reflection and actions in various areas. Design class lessons that have students taking part in actions and articulations related to composition process, compositional techniques, rhetorical situation, intercomparativity, awareness of the writerly self, and the development of multiliteracies. Use one-on-one conferences and written responses to prompt students to develop their articulation in multiple areas of their writing knowledge. When students offer initial, exploratory reflections (verbally or in writing), prompt them to say more and to continue reflecting, to be more specific in their reflections and descriptions, to reflect about more aspects of their composing knowledge, and to notice similarities and differences across genre and mode. Prepare a set of oral prompting phrases that are useful, such as “Tell me more about that,” “Can you break that down for me?” and “Why do you think you noticed that?” Offer written feedback and questions that address the effectiveness of products along with what is occurring through enactments and articulations in multiple areas of writing knowledge.
Some instructors in this study used written reflection assignments along with video to encourage their students to develop meta-awareness (although these instructors may or may not have used the term meta-awareness in their planning and course goals). Here is a summary of their pedagogical approaches to using reflection:
- No written reflection. Students turned in the video product with no accompanying written reflection (Angie).
- Final portfolio. Students turned in a portfolio at the end of the course that included a reflective essay and three revised papers (Julie).
- Oral video reflections. Students completed oral reflections on the video composition assignment in class as part of a video presentation (Katie).
- Reflection essay. Students wrote a multi-page reflection essay on the video composition process after the video was complete (Kelly).
- Multiple metacognitive essays. Students wrote two metacognitive essay assignments, one at the beginning of the course and one at the end of the course (Lauren).
Again, students in all courses demonstrated some development of meta-awareness about composition and transfer across media, regardless of what approach to reflection their instructor took. Angie did speak about not knowing much about her students’ learning through the video because she didn’t use any reflection, and she wished she had required them to do a written essay. Katie talked about how the three- to five-minute oral reflections she had students do in class as part of their video presentations didn’t often produce in-depth or extended reflections. In Kelly’s course, Lauren, Logan, and Travon all completed reflection essays on the video composition process, and all three showed development of meta-awareness through the essay and experienced moments of transfer across media. This might reveal that reflecting specifically about media types in more depth, as these three students did through their video reflection essays, is useful.
More helpful than a specific kind or amount of reflection, however, might be the kind of prompting offered for that reflection. Does the reflection prompt ask students to explore areas of their compositional knowledge they might not explore on their own? Does it ask them to go into depth about important compositional decisions? Does it lead them to explore compositional problems and similarities or differences across media? All these were important aspects of the prompting I did through interviews in this study.
Best Practice #4
Guide students in moving toward, beginning, and continuing multiple steps in a transfer across media process. This may involve supporting and scaffolding processes of consideration, reuse, application, and reconstruction. Specific and direct guidance and support may be especially important for students who have not previously reused or built on writing knowledge and skills.
Why this pedagogical practice? As Nowacek’s work and this study both reveal, transfer—and particularly transfer across media—happens in a variety of ways, and there are many pathways and avenues toward transfer. As we saw and heard in Chapter 2, sometimes transfer across assignments is that of application and at other times it is that of reconstruction. As the student experiences in Chapter 4 reveal, in-depth consideration of different kinds of writing knowledge may be an early or first step toward application or reconstruction of knowledge. Thus our pedagogy might include activities that support and guide students in these steps and stages of the transfer process.
But what about those students who didn’t transfer knowledge? Julie, for example, saw and heard very little evidence that the majority of the students in her Basic Writing class were making connections from assignment to assignment or across media, even when the connections might have been obvious, such as when students transcribed video interviews and then moved to writing up their primary research in an essay but did not use material from the transcriptions in their papers. Students in other courses, such as Daijah (Lauren’s course) and Shannon (Angie’s course), seemed apathetic or dubious about the usefulness of the video project and any potential for knowledge learned there to transfer. For students with similar experiences, it might be appropriate to design more direct scaffolds for transfer across media and require their completion.
What does this look like? Teach for transfer through course and assignment design, and provide transfer scaffolds. It is noticeable in the data from interviews with students from Lauren’s course (Daijah, Fawaz, John, Mikayla, Samuel, and Tiara) that the rhetorical appeals were one of the most meaningful, useful, and memorable aspects of students’ learning. More than other students in the study (who also received instruction related to the rhetorical appeals), Lauren’s students talked about composing with logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos in prose and multimedia formats, and they suspected and could already demonstrate that this knowledge would be useful after the course in other college classes, jobs and everyday life. Lauren built an emphasis on rhetorical appeals into every assignment in her curriculum as the students moved from analyzing how the appeals worked in other texts to using the appeals in multimodal ways in their career investigation videos and Prezi and other presentations. From Lauren’s approach and her students’ experiences, we learn that building interconnectedness and consistency of learning concepts into different kinds of tasks and assignment sequences is useful.
We also see that many of the students in this study could see their learning of video editing and how to use video software/hardware as directly applicable to future videos they might make—they anticipated transferring this knowledge as application. It might be useful, then, to support transfer as application and offer students multiple opportunities to compose in a similar space. This might be done through drafts or through multiple assignments. Conversely, supporting transfer as reconstruction requires students to compose in situations that are different from one another; this is why including both prose writing and video composition (or other forms of digital composition) within one course is useful, and asking students to move among different media can help support and foster transfer as reconstruction.
Scaffolds to support students who are more reluctant than others to transfer knowledge might include activities like the following:
- Prepare for transfer through reflection: Design informal or low-stakes reflective activities that ask students to make direct connections between diverse composing environments and media. Prompts might include: "Consider some of the similarities and differences between composing on video and composing a written essay. What is the same about your composition process? What is different? What can you take from the video assignment and apply to the written assignment? What elements don't translate as well?"
- Make a potential transfer list: Ask students to list material used in a completed task that might or might not be useful in the current task.
- Require transfer: Have students take material from a previous activity or assignment, use it as is or modify it, and include it in a current assignment.
- Document transferred material: Ask students to physically highlight in color (for prose writing) or otherwise document (with time stamps, with a written description) parts of their work that build on prior or transferred knowledge.
Best Practice #5
Use assessment as an opportunity to provide additional support for learning goals and transfer across media.
Why this pedagogical practice? While the data and analysis in this study do not directly address assessment practices, how to assess digital composition is a common question among teachers considering the use of digital media assignments in a writing class. Often writing teachers feel underprepared to assess products like videos that they themselves may not be experts in composing. Instructor Philip’s advice from section 5.3 rings true: it’s a good idea for teachers to compose at least one video of their own before providing instruction in video composition so as to develop a bit of familiarity with and expertise in the processes and products of video composition.
While many teachers don’t feel like experts in digital media or video, teachers of writing and rhetoric are experts in providing feedback to students about their progress toward the learning goals of an assignment, and this is where the emphasis may remain when assessing digital media composition within a course like first-year writing. What are the learning goals of the assignment? If they include the development of meta-awareness about composition and transfer across media, then assessment practices should center on these outcomes and not on the creation of a “finished” or professional-grade final product. While feedback on the product may still be useful for students, it should be paired with feedback focused on each student’s learning in other areas and overall development as a writer of different kinds of texts.
What does this look like? Provide students with formative feedback. This feedback could center on the development of meta-awareness about composition, the development of multiliteracies, and progress within a process of transfer across media, with these comments being in addition to feedback that addresses additional learning goals of the assignment, feedback about the compositional product, summative assessment, and/or a grade.
All the instructors in this study offered students written comments on their video projects. Many also used a rubric that listed assignment criteria to give additional feedback on the videos. Here is a look at Katie’s and Lauren’s rubrics and other assessment practices. As you can see, the rubric each instructor used was highly focused on evaluating the videos as finished products:
Katie’s assessment approach—written comments and a point-based rubric
- Written feedback on the video composition that included one multi-sentence comment
- 70 points given using a rubric with the following criteria: quantity (5 points), rhetorical purpose (15 points), audience (10 points), modes of expression (15 points), length (5 points), technical quality (10 points), citation (10 points).
- A multi-sentence written comment on the in-class video reflection
Lauren’s assessment approach—a detailed rubric
- Feedback on the career investigation presentation given using a detailed rubric with the following criteria: career knowledge/information (10%); use of rhetorical strategies (15%); grammar/spelling (5%); visual appeal: readability, colors, image composition and creativity/originality (10%); professionalism and delivery of presentation (10%); technical (5%); organization (10%); Animoto video (10%); integration of research (15%); connection to writing and communication (10%).
The clear emphasis in both these rubrics is on the final video or multimedia product. The evaluation criteria focus on required content in the product, the appearance and length of the final product, and technical quality, among other things.
How might we design additional or alternate assessments that provide students with formative feedback on more aspects of their learning, not just the form and content of final products? Katie offers students written comments on their in-class video reflections as one way to begin such work. As part of the lessons I offered, Angie and Kelly had their students compose and revise goals for developing functional and rhetorical literacies while they composed the video projects. Kelly’s students were then prompted to reflect again on their goals and progress toward them in their final reflection essays. In my own teaching, I provide defined physical space (often in a table) for feedback to students regarding learning goals, and I make myself write this feedback before I provide feedback on products.
The key to providing feedback that better aligns with the goal of transfer across media is to train ourselves to practice evaluation that looks for and validates initial steps toward this end, even when the actions and articulations are at a novice level. Comments and grades can be used to encourage students to continue and extend their learning, not solely to evaluate a product.