Pedagogical Approach


The pedagogical approach I present below is a culmination of four years of teaching video arguments in FYC. In developing it, I followed Peter Fadde and Patricia Sullivan’s (2009) assertion that “a sustained rather than a merely fashionable use of video in multimedia composition teaching and practice requires that video be used within our accepted pedagogies and curricula” (p. 4). To that end, the pedagogy employs a student-centered, process approach. It is situated within my second-semester, research-focused composition courses that meet face-to-face on Mondays and Wednesdays in a technologically enhanced classroom and online in the course management system Moodle. But with that said, the pedagogy could be adapted for other teaching contexts, such as fully face-to-face courses, or courses taught in a computer classroom.


Before my students start the process of composing their video arguments, they research an issue or problem using primary and secondary sources and write an 8-10 page academic argument. Once they’ve completed this writing project, we discuss the assignment for the video argument. Then I introduce them to the three frameworks by having them watch a video I composed for my department’s annual professional development day entitled “Video as Argument.” In this video, I use the three frameworks to analyze Michael Wesch’s popular YouTube video “A Vision of Students Today” in order to demonstrate how it’s a remediation of a scholarly article in the social sciences and a multimodal composition that makes rhetorical appeals.


In order to clarify and deepen my students’ understanding of the frameworks, we watch and analyze examples of professional and student video arguments. Typically we view the examples several times, each time focusing on applying one of the frameworks. This activity helps students gain a better understanding of how multimodal texts work, which Mary Hocks (2003) suggested is important in the early stages of an assignment (p. 650). Jennifer Sheppard (2009) pointed out that examples can also act as “points of reference for helping students and teachers to have shared expectations of the kinds of texts that should be produced” (p. 129). In addition to these benefits, I would add that watching and analyzing examples of video arguments helps my students to build bridges between alphabetic and multimodal composing because this process is a part of learning how to write alphabetic texts as well.


For their academic arguments, my students write to an academic audience for the purpose of supporting their viewpoint on the issue or problem they have researched. For their video arguments, I ask them to identify a target audience they want to reach through their YouTube channels and to define a purpose for communicating their viewpoint to this audience. By asking them to conceptualize their video arguments for a rhetorical situation outside of the classroom, I’m encouraging my students to transfer their knowledge of rhetorical principles gained from writing alphabetic texts to the process of composing multimodal texts. This process can potentially help students to further develop rhetorical awareness because, as Takayoshi and Selfe (2007) observed, “many classical rhetorical principles of communication . . . may be more difficult to ignore in audio and visual compositions” (p. 5). Students who sometimes struggle to discern the rhetorical effectiveness of content in alphabetic texts often are able to recognize strengths and weaknesses in situations involving visual or aural elements, deepening their understanding of rhetorical principals.


The next step in the conceptualizing process involves asking my students to consider what aspects of their academic argument—content, structure, and conventions—might be appropriate to remediate into their video argument given their purpose and target audience. This process is not an easy task. As Bob Whipple (2010) described it:


Remediating a traditional text is . . . an exercise in hybridity, as the remediator is in reality a re-mediator in the fullest sense of the prefix; she or he is re-composing something that was composed using different tools for different reasons. The result is a re-engineering, a new way of looking. (p. 281)


To help my students begin the process of remediation, I ask them to review a print copy of their academic argument, underlining passages and writing notes in the margins. After they have identified a number of areas to remediate, my students brainstorm potential modalities they could use to present their argument and write down their ideas. The last step in the conceptualizing process requires my students to think about how their ideas for remediating their academic argument might enable them to make appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos. All three of these invention activities begin as individual writing tasks followed by group sharing and collaborative brainstorming to further develop the ideas.


After my students finish a first pass through the conceptualizing process, their homework assignment consists of gathering materials, which might include shooting video footage and digital photos, and downloading video footage, photographs, images, and music from the Internet. I suggest to my students that gathering materials is part of the invention process like freewriting, clustering, and other brainstorming strategies, and that they should be open to new ideas for developing their video arguments as they discover images, shoot video footage, or listen to instrumental tracks. Also, I advise them to gather more materials than needed so they can select the highest quality materials for their video arguments. While they engage in this process outside of class, I shift the focus of the classroom instruction to learning about technology (e.g. video cameras and video editing software) and copyright and Fair Use issues related to Internet materials.


To learn about technology, we compose a video argument as a class. This activity typically takes two or three class sessions and involves shooting video footage, downloading Internet materials, importing these materials into iMovie on my MacBook Pro, and collaborating on drafting, revising, and editing while my computer is connected to a projector. For students who use Windows Movie Maker, I present a tutorial after this activity that introduces them to the interface and discusses the ways it is similar and different from iMovie. The focus of the class video argument is an issue or problem that connects to my students’ lives, such as the minimum legal drinking age or cyberbullying. Early in the process, we decide upon a purpose and a target audience. The goal of this activity is to introduce my students to key technological tools and to help them conceptualize video production through a process framework in order to build bridges between alphabetic and multimodal composing. Additionally, I hope my students come away from this experience with a richer understanding of video composing as a complex process, one that involves, as Megan Fulwiler and Kim Middleton (2012) argued, “a complex set of subprocesses that require composers to think conceptually with layers, work in multiple modes, and revisit initial ideas and reshape them as they discover emerging meaning over the temporal trajectory of their video” (p. 44).


Since most of my students select issues or problems to research that require some use of Internet materials for creating their video arguments, I spend a class session introducing them to the basics of copyright and Fair Use. To make these issues relatable to my students, I begin by showing them a drawing of Ultrex: The Ultimate Warrior, a superhero character I created when I was an undergraduate student. The drawing is uploaded to my Facebook account, and I suggest to my students that my Facebook friends could easily download the image file and use it. Then I pose a question: Is Ultrex protected under copyright law? Most of my students say that Ultrex is not protected. However, when I ask them if it’s legal for my Facebook friends to use my image file, most say that my friends should seek my permission before using it, and many admit that they really don’t understand copyright law. After discussing this scenario, we watch a video on the website for the Creative Commons entitled “Wanna Work Together?” The video explains how creative commons licenses can be used by copyright owners to inform others on how their work may be used in the creation of new works, but before presenting this information, the video offers a brief lesson on copyright. From this section, my students learn that photographs, songs, drawings, films, stories, etc. are automatically protected by an all rights reserved copyright. When I pose the Ultrex question after watching the video, my students agree that copyright law protects the image.


This new understanding of copyright, however, raises an important legal and ethical question: Is it okay to download video footage, photographs, images, and music from the Internet to use in their video arguments? The video indicates that copyright law protects owners from uses of their work that they don’t agree to, but on that same screen it shows an asterisk followed by the words “except fair use.” I point out this exception, and then we watch a music video entitled “User’s Rights, Section 107” found on the website for the Media Education Lab at The University of Rhode Island. The video defines Fair Use and gives guidelines for working within this legal framework. After watching this video, I present several hypothetical scenarios involving the use of copyrighted material for video arguments and ask my students to work in small groups to determine if the scenarios fall under Fair Use guidelines or if they’re examples of copyright infringement. The goal of this activity is to promote reflective habits for ethical use of Internet materials. According to Renee Hobbs and Katie Donnelly (2011), “Reflective consideration of how and why they are using copyrighted materials deepens student understanding of their own rhetorical, technological, and editorial choices” (p. 286).


After learning about technology, copyright, and Fair Use, and gathering materials, my students are ready to create a storyboard for their video arguments. A storyboard is a visual representation of their video argument. I require my students to create a storyboard for two reasons: (1) It gives them a chance to think through their ideas and structural choices before drafting their video argument; (2) It gives them an opportunity to share a plan with class members and myself before they embark on the time-consuming process of composing their video argument. I introduce this assignment in class, but they work on their storyboards outside of the classroom, putting their ideas into a storyboard template using a free, online PDF editor such as PDFescape that allows them to write and draw on PDF files. Then my students upload their storyboards to a Moodle discussion forum for a response session. Once they have received feedback, they revise their storyboards and start the process of drafting their video arguments.


While my students are drafting their video arguments outside of class, our time spent in the classroom is focused on preparing them for an online response session where they will share their rough drafts and offer each other feedback. I focus part of a class session on walking them through the process of creating their own YouTube channel, uploading a video file, and adjusting the settings of their channel. Given the fact that I don’t teach in a computer classroom, YouTube channels play an important role in the response session because students set the privacy settings for their rough draft to “unlisted” and post a URL link to their video argument in a Moodle discussion forum so their class members and I can watch it. In addition to the URL link, they also provide details regarding the purpose and target audience for their video argument along with three questions they’d like class members and myself to respond to when giving feedback. To help them formulate questions, we spend several class sessions discussing the grading rubric for the video argument and applying it to the student video arguments we’ve watched previously. The grading rubric offers guidelines while at the same time providing room for my students and I to discuss what it means for a video argument to be rhetorically effective given a specific purpose and target audience. In this regard, my approach to integrating assessment into my pedagogy is in alignment with the teaching philosophy of “instructive assessment” advocated by Sonya Borton and Brian Huot (2007).


Online response sessions are a valuable part of the composing process because multimodal composing using the medium of video is new for most of my students. The two most common weaknesses I see in their rough drafts are (1) written text dominating the video, and (2) arguments that need to be developed in more detail. Feedback from class members and myself helps the majority of my students to improve in these areas. In fact, I’ve found that my students tend to make more significant global changes during the revision process for the video argument than they do for the academic argument. While feedback plays an important role in initiating these changes, many students have also noted that watching rough drafts of class members’ video arguments sparked ideas for their own projects.


After the online response session, my students revise their video arguments, upload a final version to their YouTube channels and set the privacy settings to “public,” write reflections on their experiences with video composing, and submit their reflections to Moodle with a URL link to their final version. The reflection serves two purposes, one process and the other product. As a process, the reflection engages students in metacognition in order to help them to become more conscious of their learning experience so they can potentially transfer the skills and knowledge they’ve gained from it to future communication situations. As a product, the reflection offers me an inside look at my students’ composing processes as well as their thoughts about their video argument. I tell my students that I don’t expect them to be professional video producers, but I do expect them to engage in the process of making choices that are appropriate for the rhetorical situation and to explain why they’ve made those choices. Like Maria Lovett, James Purdy, Katherine Gossett, Carrie Lamanna, and Joseph Squier (2010), I want to “raise students’ awareness of video as doing rhetorical work” (p. 290). The reflection—along with the rough draft and final version of their video argument—provides me with information about my students’ rhetorical choices so I can better assess their learning experiences.