Digital Storytelling as an Assessment Practice Melody Buckner, PhD - University of Arizona

The journey begins...my personal adventure into the arena of Digital Storytelling


What are the benefits of using Digital Storytelling to assist in assessment?

Traditional vs. Digital Storytelling

Traditional storytelling refer to an established or customary practice of sharing knowledge, interpreting experiences, or passing on the collective wisdom of the culture to others through the techniques of oral narration, written word, or illustrations. Not all, but most stories feature a beginning, middle, and end. (Campbell, 1968; Pellowski, 1977)

Digital storytelling is a modern method for expanding upon traditional storytelling techniques through a variety of digital modalities including digital photography and videography. The audience members participate either passively through viewing a video or interactively through commentary, discussions, or social media about the video (Ohler, 2013).

The Assessment Roller Coaster Ride

Assessment practices refers to the systematic gathering of information about student learning. There are three basic steps in the assessment process:

  • articulate the learning goals of the course
  • gather information about how well students are achieving the learning goals of the course and factors that influence achievement
  • use the information for improvement (Walvoord, 2004).

Research Settings and Four Disciplines

Research Questions

What does digital storytelling offer as an assessment instrument and model for demonstrating expected learning outcomes for study abroad programs?

In what ways does a digital storytelling project influence the learning experience and the building of personal identity for students?

Theoretical Framework

Constructivism - The learner is actively constructing knowledge rather than passively taking in information. Learners come to the educational setting with many different experiences, ideas and approaches to learning. Learners do not acquire knowledge that is transmitted to them: rather, they construct knowledge through their intellectual activity and make it their own (Chaille and Britian, 1991).

Findings on Reflections, Journals and Scripts

“It (the digital storytelling project) really helped me to reflect on everything we did and [SIC] asked myself, “What was the real intention behind this trip? Why did we go to the museum? Why did we volunteer at Resplandor?” It is more than just busy work, there is a certain meaning behind it, and so that is what the digital storytelling project made me think about.” – Monica

“Other than the digital story I did not take a whole lot of time to sit back and reflect, so it allowed me to definitely to go through all my pictures and remembered all the things we did because we did so much. I probably spend 4 to 8 hours looking through my pictures and reflecting upon the trip...The only time I would reflect would be if I ran into a friend and they asked me how was your trip. I did not take my own personal time to reflect on my experience.” – Ellen

Finding on the Role of the Rubric

“how it (digital storytelling project) was brought up and it was very restricting, like I did not really have a lot of options...it being so restrictive kind of takes a toll on you. I can’t be as creative as I want to be. I can’t really share the things, because the people are looking for certain, specific things.” –Ana

“it is good to know initially when you go into it that there are expectations about the product you are going to have to produce at the end and be thinking about it. All of us were thinking about it and taking pictures and reflecting on things that were happening in the moment.” – Rebecca

Sharing and Peer Reviews

Sharing was perceived as a positive part of the digital storytelling project, however access and usability were major factors in the success of this aspect of the learning experience. The students in this study wanted to share their project, not only with the other students who participated on the study abroad, but with their family, friends, and even potential employers.


The digital storytelling project assisted with the reflection process on both the learning and personal experiences of the student.


Creative assessment can enhance the learning experience however restrictive assessment gets in the way of learning.

Multimodal Literacy

Do not let the technology get in the way of the learning or the pedagogy.

Major Take Away

Remember to take time to reflect upon your experiences and share with others for it will benefit not only your mind, but your soul.


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