Screen Time Reconsidered: Exploring Student Perceptions of the Multimodal Composing Process

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Cristy Beemer

Second Advisor

Bethany Silva

Third Advisor

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper


Multimodality plays a primary role in preparing writers to be literate, effective 21st century communicators. This study examines student perceptions of the multimodal composing process. It queries first-year writing students at a state university. Students completed a five-week module, focusing on developing and publishing a rich media essay assignment. This IRB-approved, two-part, qualitative study consists of two surveys and a series of student interviews. The in-depth semi-structured interview followed a pre and post-assignment survey. The survey and interview questions investigated the benefits that students find in multimodal composing and examined the rhetorical moves students make as part of the same process. Survey and interview questions also work to explore the pedagogical implications for a multimodal composing curriculum. Through a qualitative analysis based on practitioner inquiry, I discovered that students find the multimodal composing process to be dynamic, non-linear and iterative. Students value multimodal composing for its ability to amplify expression and creativity. They assert it fosters relevant and practical composing outcomes, emphasizing authenticity and “real life” composing. Students report that the alphabetic writing process they are used to, falls short of supporting the multimodal composing process. They identify the composing process as explosive, a non-linear decision-making experience where multiple interconnected choices must be made, a composing circumstance that requires unique and reflective analysis of each rhetorical situation. Finally, students value multimodal composing because it supports much needed learning surrounding an understanding of digital ethics, and the impact on their ability to navigate communication technologies they will face as they move forward as successful, contemporary writers.

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