Learning through multimodal assessment

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Context & Scale

This pattern supports learning as a self-development process, while encouraging creativity, individuality, and diversity. Multimodal assessment can be used to focus on continuous learning, rather than assess a finished product. Assessments are scaffolded so students may represent their experiences in diverse and non-linear ways, and through multiple modes of communication (combining visuals and or audio with text). Such assessment may be designed and scaled for different educational settings, including opportunities for reflexive thinking, conversation, and presentations.


Creative thinking and problem-solving abilities are valued in business education and industry as graduate qualities and employability skills, particularly as much routine work shifts to automation. Similarly, critical thinking and experiential learning are important so that students may reflect on and connect their personal and professional knowledge (Kolb, 2014).

Learning journeys are fluid and non-linear (Costigan & Brink, 2015), yet the traditional written assignment format is often linear and is not always the best medium for expressing complex, personal learning processes (Scanlon et al., 2022). Creativity needs to be embedded into the learning design of activities (Osmani et al., 2019; Philip, 2018).


This solution is related to the CLaS principles of active learning and connected participation, and relevant and authentic assessment and feed-forward.

Students represent their personal approaches and goals, their process, and how they might make a difference in the workplace, at strategic points throughout the semester. These may be formative, in-class activities. If students are assessed continuously on their representations, guided self and peer assessment may be used to foster evaluative judgement and lessen teacher workload. Finally, students create an actionable plan for their next steps and present their collected and curated multimodal representation (posters, portfolios, podcast for example) to their peers in brief sessions at the end of semester. At scale, students are exposed to more diverse reflections, for a potentially richer learning experience.


  • Choose strategic points throughout the semester to ask students to reflect on their learning with questions based on connecting their knowledge and skills with the subject matter in the past, now, and into the future.

  • Decide on the type of multimedia for students to record their activities, or whether students may collect their cumulative assessment in a format of their own choosing (see examples below). A portfolio tool may be used if sufficiently flexible.

  • Provide a structure for the presentation of the assessment as a scaffold and instructions on constraints and which formats are accepted. In some contexts, students may make a convincing case for alternative formats.

  • Encourage students to communicate their message creatively and authentically by providing examples and activities to practice in small groups in class.

  • Peers and teachers provide informal, formative feedback through discussion or presentations during class throughout the semester.

  • Multimodal assessments may be presented to class or to small groups at the end of semester and celebrated. If students agree and see benefit, showcase creative learning journeys in wider, more public forums such as this site. See examples below.

Examples of pattern in use

Poster presentations in Innovation and Entrepreneurship


This pattern was evaluated in one semester of a first-year postgraduate foundation subject. ‘Innovation and entrepreneurship Foundation’ is the first core subject of a cross-faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship Major which spans five faculties across the University of Sydney and multiple disciplines within the Business School.  

The subject had 89 students in 2022. The approach was iteratively developed and implemented. We acknowledge Professor Steven Maguire and Dr Paul Finn who designed, implemented and developed this poster assessment.  

Poster presentations and projects are a popular assessment strategy in many disciplines, and can be implemented asynchronously at scale (Weaver et al., 2022; Fatima et al, 2022). In this subject, poster assessment was designed to scaffold innovation and entrepreneurship skills, where students connect their personal goals, values, and motivations to authentic ways of organising and, potentially new venture formation. Students are introduced to diverse contexts, including public, private, and not-for-profit companies. They are expected to interact with local, national, and global organisations in their learning journey over the semester, either locally or virtually, to engage in real-world issues while considering their own personal innovation and entrepreneurship journeys. In doing so, students:

  1. Select a challenge or pressing problem to which they personally want to contribute positively through innovation and/or entrepreneurship.
  2. Connect the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the subject material and their own passions and interests.
  3. Undertake activities to analyse their chosen challenge in more depth and to frame approaches and solutions for this context. The sites and activities are with organisational units at the University of Sydney, local Sydney-based organisations, and other national and global organisations. Students may also identify ‘wildcard’ organisations relevant to their innovation and entrepreneurship interests that they can visit and explore.
  4. Submit evidence they have visited at least 3 sites or completed 3 activities by week 6; and at least an additional 3 more by week 10. This evidence may take the form of screenshots, registration confirmations, emails, photos, thank you emails, etc. (This task is compulsory but intended as formative and not graded.)
  5. Create an A0-size poster combining visual, textual, and physical materials to represent what they have learnt at various points throughout the semester. On the poster, they recap and analyse the sites visited and activities undertaken with the following categories guiding student responses:
    • SDG challenge or problem to be solved
    • purposes and personal goals as innovators and entrepreneurs
    • approaches to innovation and entrepreneurship
    • opportunities to make a difference, as well as resources that may be needed
    • process of innovation/entrepreneurship during semester and beyond
    • ecosystem they see themselves operating in, and important stakeholders and networks they can leverage
    • action plan with next steps and reflection on capabilities needed to get there.
  6. Present and verbally ‘annotate’ their posters to peers in three-minute spoken sessions at the end of semester.


Research suggests that posters are an effective assessment strategy at scale, both in online and face-to-face workshops (Aduradola & Akeredolu-Ale, 2013; Menke, 2014). The poster format encourages independence and diversity – students may develop insights about themselves and express their learning in different ways, according to their cultural backgrounds, disciplinary knowledge and personal interests (Dixon, 2022). The process of presenting and annotating the posters allows for self and peer-assessment, where students retrospectively analyse and evaluate their learning, while thinking of future capability development (Kearney, 2013). 

  • Students could portray the often messy and iterative nature of learning and relate this learning to the non-linear and process-driven nature of the subject matter: innovation and entrepreneurship. 
  • Students invested significant time, energy, and effort into their posters, which supported creative thinking.  
  • Annotating the posters in group-based workshop encouraged communication and discussion as they compared and contrasted their journeys, taking inspiration from each other in the process. 

See also a more in-depth blog post on this pattern example: Can poster assignments improve the student learning experience? Benefits for students and educators. 

Below is an example of a student poster, kindly presented with permission from Nilesh Nadanapatham.

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Leadership portfolio for Leading in a Post-crisis World


This pattern was evaluated in a postgraduate elective subject (Leading in a Post-crisis World). The subject had around 100 students with a ration of 30:70 in-person to online. The approach was iteratively developed and implemented. We acknowledge the coordinators and lecturers involved with its iterative design, particularly Professor Peter Bryant, Associate Professor Juliette Overland and Associate Professor Elaine Huber.

Leadership portfolio 

Students are asked to create a leadership portfolio of curated work, to show their learning and personal development over time. For example, at the beginning of the subject, students use Padlet to create a book cover, a movie poster, artwork, photograph or any other image that introduces themselves and their last year.   

Students write short regular reflections that are submitted throughout the semester to the LMS where they are stored and collected. Students may use these reflections at the end of semester to craft their portfolios. In this example below, SRES was used. More information on administrative aspects of weekly reflections may be found in the REFLECTION AT SCALE pattern.

At workshops, students discuss their leadership values and their leadership legacy in small groups. There are other prompts such as taking this Leadership Style Assessment Test to help students reflect on their traits, skills and attitudes. 

In the assessment, students are asked to reflect on and creatively represent the following. 

  • Personal interests and values, and what contribution they would like to make to the world, perhaps with inspiration from the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) and targets.  
  • Leadership legacy and what new perspectives on life or business they wish to adopt professionally
  • Leadership traits, skills and attitudes they have to offer and need to further develop to contribute to society and to meet future business demands 
  • Leadership story, how they would structure and tell their story, and which evidence they need to support their story  
  • Cognitive biases and how they might frame the future differently to be more effective crisis-prepared leaders
  • Design thinking skills as a leader and how to apply them in business or organisations to help in rebuilding post-crisis 
  • Perspective on creativity and whether it has changed throughout the subject, and if so, how. 

Below is an extract of a student portfolio (without the audio and video), published with the kind permission of Yingxin Cao. 

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The focus of the portfolio is on the process of learning and development, rather than the output or final presentation, so students are invited to tell their stories in whichever way they choose. When choosing a platform and design for their portfolio, students are prompted to consider building on it later throughout their professional career. Examples are given such as: 

  • social media; LinkedIn, YouTube etc 
  • blogging sites; WordPress etc 
  • personal websites; sites.google.com, Weebly, Squarespace etc 
  • presentation sites; Powerpoint, Google slides, Prezi 
  • other tools as appropriate 

Below is an extract of a portfolio in which the student sang about their leadership journey (without the audio and video), published with the kind permission of Shailene Wei. 

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Teachers mark the portfolio on student: 

  • reflection on their own leadership style, capability, and potential 
  • examples with critical commentary on leadership concepts discussed in the subject and more widely  
  • evidence of sustained engagement, which could include the timely completion of Canvas or Padlet activities, Miro boards etc. 
  • contribution to workshop discussions and activities, including personal reflections 
  • timely and effective contribution to group project (i.e. Peer Evaluation) 
  • creative and individual content and structure, with effective use of visuals to support the content 

Student feedback

In focus groups students were asked about the leadership portfolio, and whether it challenged them to critically reflect on their business or leadership responsibilities. Generally, students enjoyed the leadership portfolio “because it tied both the first and the second one [assessment] in together really, really well” and because it increased their awareness of reflection. For example, one student said, “I got self-aware the more I know that OK so these are my tools of trade, my internal tools of trade that I can use for my future prospects.”  

Another described it as “a reflection on where we have come as leaders and where we are planning to go and how,” and involving, “a lot of self-reflective, a lot of metacognitive work.” They also described it as “a talent or skills audit”.  

All students had made use or planned to make use of what they created in this assessment. One said they “will use as a source of inspiration – I’m not so sure if I would present it as is, probably I would tweak it a bit just to tailor the job.” Another student explained that they “attached little bits and pieces to my resume, and I feel it brings my character and personality to my resume a lot more, so I’ve incorporated the inspirational quotes into my resume… It has inspired me to keep working on it and keep working, to keep growing it a little bit as I learn and as I grow.” One student who had been promoted to a higher-level HR role explained “I think [the leadership portfolio] has pretty much contributed to my current role right now, so I’m pretty grateful for that.” 

Below is another extract of a student portfolio, published with the kind permission of Emily McDonagh. 

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About the Authors

Carmen Vallis

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