By Dane S. Claussen, Ph.D., MBA, Manager of University Relations, Athena Study Abroad
“Digital Storytelling as a Tool for Fostering Reflection,” by Ali Hamilton, Donald Rubin, Michael Tarrant, and Mikkel Gleason, was published in the April 2019 issue of Fron-tiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. The researchers designed and tested what they call the VALUE Discover Abroad Digital Story Rubric to assess students on a variety of criteria after they completed a study abroad program and a digital storytelling project within a week of their return. The new rubric drew on existing American Association of Colleges and Univer-sities (AAC&U) rubrics for Critical Thinking, Oral Communication, and Intercultural Knowledge and Competence. The researchers’ goals were assessing disciplinary thinking, multimedia coherence, and intercultural understanding. Twenty-five students’ projects were assessed; all had completed only “Maymester” courses in English-speaking cultures, managed by the University of Georgia.
Results naturally varied among the stu-dents. The researchers suggested that students needed more training in visual rhetoric, that research should be con-ducted on students from other study abroad contexts (and also over the long term), and that students should be made aware in advance of the rubric that will be used to assess them. They also sug-gested that designers of study abroad programs focus more “on how students can incorporate knowledge and experi-ence gained through studying abroad into their lives once they return home.” The researchers’ rationale for adapting AAC&U’s Oral Communication rubric for their “multimedia coherence” assessment was weak; for example, they apparently did not consult any relevant research in video/television/film design and produc-tion, even though such scholars have the most expertise in visual storytelling and their field is distinct from both oral com-munication and English composition.