Teachers' enactment of multiliteracies in the English language arts




Haut, Megan

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A pedagogy of multiliteracies, which has been advocated by numerous literacy specialists working in the field of literacy education, attributes literacy as multiple, dynamic and socially situated. Further, a pedagogy of multiliteracies stresses the multimodal features of communication, and students instructed from this pedagogical perspective explore the visual, gestural, spatial and auditory modes, as well as the linguistic ones of speech and writing. Finally, a pedagogy of multiliteracies was developed with the goal of creating a more equitable education system, in which learner diversity can be represented in the literacies of the English Language Arts classroom. In consideration of this goal, a multiliteracies pedagogy prompts teachers to include those literacy practices that students engage with outside of school in the English Language Arts classroom. The purpose of this research was, firstly, to learn about the literacies which secondary teachers are exploring with their students in the English Language Arts, teachers’ motivation for doing so, and how these literacies are being instructed. Secondly, factors that influence the enactment of this pedagogy in the English Language Arts as seen in the literature on the topic were explored. These factors were standardized tests, teacher education, access to resources and finally, teacher culture. The design of case study was used to answer the research questions, and qualitative research methods were employed to collect and analyze data provided by participants, all practicing English Language Arts teachers at the secondary level. The types of data collected included interviews, observations, field notes taken during the interviews and observations and finally, teaching artifacts such as assignment sheets. The findings of my study suggested that although many teachers are incorporating a range of literacies in their classes, the features of these literacies and the literacy skills needed to interpret multiple modes were not often addressed in the classroom. Participants noted the inclusion of a variety of literacies in their programs as a means to engage students in the skills and materials traditionally featured in the English Language Arts, or to expand on themes apparent in literature and connect these themes to contemporary culture. In addition, few participants considered the ideological elements inherent in literacy education in their integration of multiliteracies in their classes, nor did many of these teachers describe the need for students to develop critical literacy skills. The impediments that appeared to limit the enactment of this pedagogy were entrenched teachers’ views about literacy learning, lack of education in the foundational theory of this pedagogy, and lack of time for professional development, collegial sharing, and amassing resources that could support teachers towards incorporating a range of literacies in their programs. Despite the identification in much of the literature of standardized tests as a major impediment to the realization of this pedagogical approach in the classroom, such tests did not appear to significantly influence the participants’ implementation of multiple literacies in their classes. The findings of this study suggest that the teachers were incorporating a range of literacies in their English Language Arts programs, yet the teachers making these inclusions were not motivated by a desire to achieve the aims of increased equity in literacy education or to develop students’ understanding of the multimodal features of communication. Consequently, many of the goals of this pedagogy were not being realized in the English Language Arts classrooms of the research participants.



multiliteracies, English Language Arts