The Joy of Rhetoric with Video Projects

Instructional Challenge

In past semesters, Dr. Leigh Meredith introduced her students to the subject of rhetoric by assigning them a textbook chapter to read and a TedEd video to watch,  after which, they would present a summary to the class of what they had learned. Reflecting on the assignment, Dr. Meredith realized that it not only failed to excite her students about rhetoric, but it was missing an active component where they could apply what they had learned while it was fresh in their minds. The time from when students learned about the foundational concepts of rhetoric to when they had the opportunity to apply them was too great and was detrimental to their understanding and engagement in the topic. Dr. Meredith wanted her students to get right to the active and more compelling activities of identifying and analyzing rhetorical strategies. 
 

Instructional Solution

Dr. Meredith decided to introduce an interactive, multimedia assignment to replace her traditional oral summaries presentation assignment at the start of the semester. She was looking to explore solutions to the problem of introducing foundational knowledge, and thought that maybe there was a tool that could support a more engaging assignment. She liked the idea of a student group project whereby students could identify and apply foundations of rhetoric to something they see in their everyday lives. But she didn’t know what media she would like to employ and she didn’t want her students to get distracted by having to learn a complicated new tool. When she learned about Adobe Spark, a free, easy-to-use web-based application where users build on visual and content-based templates to quickly make web pages, social media posts, and videos, it seemed like a potential solution for her teaching dilemma.

While the tool fit the need, Dr. Meredith was very thoughtful and intentional around the assignment; she set clear expectations and offered support, while giving her students freedom to be creative. She had her students form groups, choose their example of rhetoric, and then create an Adobe Spark Video to identify the rhetorical purpose of their chosen example. Students compiled graphics, images, text, and audio to articulate and show how the rhetorical strategies (logos, ethos, pathos) were evidenced in their videos. (see links to student work below)

Lessons Learned

Students greeted the Spark assignment with enthusiasm and interest, much more so than her previous oral summaries presentation assignment. She found that her students even spent extra time on the assignment, meeting in their groups outside of class to improve their projects. And, she noticed that there was a lot of collaboration happening in the groups, students were excited to work together on their videos and share them with the class. So, the project also worked as an ice-breaker for the incoming students, supporting a more collaborative and engaged environment in the class overall. For these reasons, it was a great first assignment for incoming students which situated them well with a solid foundation in rhetoric, practice in application of techniques as well as social engagement within the class.

Enthused and undaunted, Dr. Meredith envisions using Adobe Spark videos and web pages in many different ways in her teaching: “I can imagine it being used not only for an analytical project, the way that I used it, but also for things like personal narrative, a researched report, a historical timeline, a meta-cognitive process reflective piece….across multiple disciplines, you could find a way to use Adobe Spark that would be more engaging than what you're already doing. 
 

Group Video Project Examples

Below are two sample video projects created by first semester students for their first Rhetoric 130 assignment. Thank you to Dr. Meredith and to the students who provided their permission to post these projects!


The Rhetoric of Men’s Fragrance Ads
How and Why do Lay’s Ads Use Rhetoric?