Assessment using visual and multimodal texts

The Shape of Text to Come (2nd edition) by Jon Callow seeks to provide a way for teachers to understand how images work in their own right, as well as in relation to written text. Text, in the broad use of the term, can be print, screen-based or live presentation and performance. A variety of modes can be utilised through each form, such as word, image, sound, music, movement, video and interactive elements. The term ‘multimodal’ acknowledges this variety of meaning-making resources.

In developing a language to talk about visual and multimodal texts, The Shape of Text to Come presents a semiotic framework for understanding and talking about both images and written text.



  Meaning-making focus

Field What’s happening?

Visual and verbal resources for expressing actions and ideas, presenting characters or participants and showing circumstances.

Tenor How do we interact and relate?

Visual and verbal resources for interacting with others, showing feelings, attitudes, credibility and power relationships.

 Mode How do design and layout build meaning?

Visual and verbal resources for organising logical and cohesive texts.


In The Shape of Text to Come, assessment of students’ visual and multimodal literacy skills should follow similar principles to that of all types of literacy learning, being integrated, student focused and related to the classroom curriculum. Since multimodal theory recognises the significant influence of technology and associated multiliteracies practices, assessment should also reflect integrated learning experiences, co-operative tasks and on-going development of portfolios and work samples which can cross print, performance and screen based literacy learning.

Assessment techniques and tasks should:

  • be part of authentic learning experiences
  • utilise quality texts, such as picture books, information books, screen based texts as well as texts that students create
  • involve ongoing, formative and well as summative assessment
  • involve students using a metalanguage as part of the assessment
  • provide focused activities where student talk and understanding is focused on specific visual and textual aspects (time to look think deeply and talk about visual texts is very important)
  • provide a variety of ways for students to show their skills and conceptual knowledge.
  • include student made visual responses (drawing, painting, multimedia) to the texts used in the classroom (based on Callow, 2008)

In most classrooms, assessment is part of a teaching/learning cycle, where teachers plan in light of syllabus outcomes, observe and evaluate as they teach, assessing student learning formatively and modifying lessons as appropriate. Engaging learning activities provide assessment opportunities, where more teacher-guided tasks give way to student control, as they practice new skills and develop ideas.

All literacy learning should occur as part of a wider context, whether an author study, modeled reading lessons, factual curriculum-area reading or another planned learning experience, such as a film making competition, children’s writers' festival or school performance events. Working with multimodal texts creates new challenges for learning and assessment. Bearne (2009) details the importance and challenges of assessing student created multimodal texts, both screen and print, and some ways to go about this in the classroom. Having a metalanguage to describe visual elements is a key feature.

The following tables are based on the Shape of Text to Come and the Show Me framework (Callow, 2008, 2023) and provide examples of relevant metalanguage and assessment questions in relation to informative, imaginative  and persuasive text. The assessment ideas below assume that any text used will be part of a meaningful learning context, so that the student is assisted to see assessment as related and meaningful to class activities. The associated strands, sub strands and threads link assessment to the Australian curriculum. 

Assessment guide for students engaging with visual and multimodal texts

Engagement and enjoyment — visual features to assess/ metalanguage to use
Suggested assessment questions
Australian Curriculum links

Initial prediction about the text from book cover, screen, flick through of images/ pages, etc.

Engagement (positive and/or negative) with the text.

Elaborations may include:

  • looks at images while reading
  • comments on images (independently or when prompted)
  • returns to look at particular images
  • shows enjoyment in reading/viewing.

What do the pictures tell you about what this text (book, website, advertisement etc.) might be about?

What elements attract you to this page? What elements don’t appeal to you?

Choose a section/double page spread/screen from the website to focus on.

Is there a part of this page/screen that really appeals to you? Tell me why.

Is there anything in the pictures that don’t appeal to you or annoy you? Tell me about that

Each year level description includes the following key element:

Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment.

With increasing sophistication, by Year 8 level descriptions also include:

Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment. They listen to, read, view, interpret, evaluate and perform a range of spoken, written and multimodal texts in which the primary purpose is aesthetic, as well as texts designed to inform and persuade. These include various types of media texts including newspapers, magazines and digital texts, early adolescent novels, non-fiction, poetry and dramatic performances. Students develop their understanding of how texts, including media texts, are influenced by context, purpose and audience.

Key points for using assessment ideas tables below

Before or after reading any text (imaginative, informative or persuasive), include discussion of some of the key points:

Cultural context: Where might we find similar texts (stories, websites, books, movies) to the one we just watched? Have you read/ viewed any similar types of texts? (could be anime, picture book, website, movie etc.)

Australian Curriculum: English link – Literacy – Texts in context – Focus of thread within sub-strand: Texts and the contexts in which they are used. How texts relate to their contexts and reflect the society and culture in which they were created – Foundation to Year 8

Audience and social purpose: Who would most likely be interested in reading or viewing this? Why might they choose to read this story/ access this information book/ go to this website?

Australian Curriculum: English link — for example AC9E1LY03 onwards, Year 1–8: Describe some differences between imaginative informative and persuasive texts

Text type: What types of text are similar to the one we have just read / viewed? ( narrative, poetry, recount, explanation, persuasive or a perhaps a combination of these on a webpage)

Australian Curriculum: English link – Language – Texts structure and organization – Focus of thread within sub-strand: Purpose audience and structures of different types of texts. How texts serve different purposes and how the structures of types of texts vary according to the text purpose. 

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A webliography for references online