Marlene Asselin

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not looking for graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows. Please do not contact the faculty member with any such requests.

Associate Professor

Research Interests

Cultural Institutions (Museums, Libraries, etc.)
early literacy
International development
Language Acquisition and Development
libraries and education
literacy and international development

Relevant Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Research Methodology


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Managing the gap: exploring the multimodal literacy instruction of a student with learning disabilities (2020)

Students with learning disabilities (LD) are one of the largest categories of learners in North America (British Columbia [BC] Ministry of Education, 2017; Dudley-Marling & Gurn, 2012; Statistics Canada, 2008). Their literacy struggles are generally categorized as difficulties with print-based practices in reading, writing, and oral language skills (BC Ministry of Education, 2011, 2016a). However, the English Language Arts curriculum in BC considers meaning-making and communication to be multimodal—that is, the combination of print, visuals, audio, movies, bodily gestures, and other semiotic modes. Multimodal texts, in particular, are seen as resources that enhance learning and students are expected to compose texts using a variety of modes (BC Ministry of Education, 2016b, 2018; Kress, 1997, 2010). With these different approaches to literacy, this case study explores the multimodal meaning-making practices of a teacher and a focal student with LD in a Grade 4/5 classroom. Data was collected through observations and field notes, semi-structured interviews, and photo documentation of the teacher’s instruction and the student’s engagement with multimodal materials. The findings indicate that the teacher and the student had different expectations and perceptions of multimodal meaning-making practices. Although the teacher welcomed the focus on multimodality to help the student express his learning in a variety of ways, she encountered many barriers during her instruction. This resulted in turning to print- based activities in order to redirect the student’s focus. Conversely, the student’s practices were rooted in his interest in the design of his multimodal texts and he demonstrated strong proficiency using a variety of digital tools. Although the student’s exploration of semiotic modes was similar to his peers without LD, it was a challenge for the teacher to reposition the student as a “knower” of his own work (Hall, Burns, & Greene, 2013). This study raises questions about how the multimodal meaning-making practices of students with LD are perceived by teachers. The findings suggest there needs to be a continued effort to view students with LD as “designers of meaning” in order to challenge perceptions of lower literacy achievement (Anderson, Stewart, & Kachorsky, 2017).

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Using digital technologies to enhance first-year students’ learning in a communication and academic literacy skills course at the University of Botswana (2020)

Advances in technology have influenced the ways in which students read, write, and communicate. The advent of the Internet and other digital technologies in the classroom has encouraged educators to supplement traditional pedagogies with those that integrate digital technologies in order to cater to students’ academic and professional needs—needs that include the ability to navigate large repositories of multimodal information on the Internet to locate, evaluate, organize, and use relevant information. Further, the emergence of new technologies demands that educators explore their potential for new ways of reading and writing as well as for fostering participatory and collaborative learning in classroom instruction.This case study aimed to investigate University of Botswana first-year students’ use of digital technologies to enhance learning in the Communication and Academic Literacy Skills (COM) course. A qualitative approach—using a questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, observations, and document reviews—was taken to determine the technologies that were available for student use at the university, how the digital technologies were used to enhance student learning, whether the use of digital technologies contributed to the development of students’ academic literacies, and lecturer perceptions of students’ use of digital technologies to enhance their learning. Data from 63 students and two lecturers, purposely sampled, were analyzed for emergent themes, revealing generally that (a), although students were exposed to a variety of digital technologies the university provided, they did not use them to enhance their learning due to a lack of digital literacy skills and (b), although participants acknowledged the potential of using digital technologies for effective learning and teaching, resource challenges—such as a lack of working computers, unreliable Internet connections, and a lack of digital skills—impacted the integration of technology into the COM course. With new and emerging technologies rapidly increasing, this study highlights (a) the need for exploration into the use of these new digital technologies for teaching and learning, (b) professional development for lecturers on the effective integration of these technologies into instruction, and (c) policy formation and implementation regarding the use of these technologies for the promotion of 21st-century skills.

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The new literacies of Web 2.0 : a case study of one school district (2011)

While we know that youth are increasingly using the Internet for school purposes like gathering information for assignments, research is just beginning to identify the actual Internet processes and practices of adolescents when learning. This study joins the theoretical conversation surrounding New Literacies Theory by combining the perspectives that Web 2.0 is a new literacy, that the new knowledge economy requires youth to be literate in new ways, and that Web 2.0 is a democratic medium. This is a case study using the mixed methods of interviewing, participant observation, and surveys. The goal of the case study school district was to implement digital literacies in its schools. The principal at the focal school had adopted this goal and was encouraging teachers to implement Web 2.0 tools. Survey findings showed that the majority of teachers were not using Web 2.0 tools in their practice. However, the practices of three teachers who were using Web 2.0 tools were investigated. Findings showed that these teachers used Web 2.0 tools in both new literacy ways and traditional ways that simply took a former practice and technologized it. Findings further showed that the students were not frequently using the Internet in ways that engendered practices associated with new literacies. This was partly attributed to the fact that teachers were not using these literacies in schools. Descriptive statistics and t-tests showed statistically significant differences between many of students’ self- and school-selected practices. Most of the tools were used more frequently for self-selected reasons, whereas only wikis were used more often for school-selected practices for both accessing and contributing to information. Also, students accessed the web for information more often than they contributed to it. This practice matched that of their teachers. The focus group interview showed that students’ self-selected Internet practices were more participatory and social whereas their school-selected practices were more passive. This study extends the developing New Literacies Theory by proposing that no one form of literacy supersedes or holds more value than another. It also suggests that we take care not to devalue existing forms of literacy when we begin to integrate new forms.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Digital portfolios: engaging parents to support early learning (2019)

Although connections between school and home have been shown to positively impact student learning, it can be challenging for parents and teachers to build relationships and engage in effective two-way communication. This study examined the potential of using digital portfolios to communicate student learning and strengthen the relationship between teachers and parents. Personalized learning goals, evidence of progress through notes, photographs and videos, along with timely access to assessment data, make digital portfolios a viable option to narrow the home-school gap. Moreover, the digital portfolio becomes a virtual space where parents, students and teachers can communicate in a timely manner focused on individual learner strengths and needs. Digital portfolios are being increasingly used by school districts throughout Canada to supplement or replace paper report cards; however, there is limited research available to inform their use.Through a qualitative case study, this research gathered insight into how digital documentation might improve parent engagement and influence early literacy learning. Participants included six parents from a grade one/two classroom in a large school district in British Columbia where digital portfolios are used as a formal reporting tool. Drawing on an ecological theory of development and sociocultural view of learning, the researcher examined parents’ perceptions of digital portfolios as a means to support learning at home and communicate with their child’s teacher. Data were gathered through an online survey, semi-structured interviews and portfolio artifacts.The findings suggest that parents appreciate the virtual window into the classroom offered by digital portfolios, as it allows them to feel more connected and engage in conversations about school with their child. As a platform to support learning, the findings reveal the importance of portfolio documentation. Without personalized feedback and curriculum connections in parent-friendly language, digital portfolios can be viewed as a scrapbook and under-valued as an assessment platform. Although the results suggest digital portfolios have the potential to improve parent engagement, more research is needed to determine how they might be used effectively to address specific learning goals. This study provides initial recommendations for educators, suggestions for future research and digital portfolio samples.

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