Doctor of Philosophy in Language and Literacy Education (PhD)
Language and literacy education of youth refugees
As educators face the challenge of preparing students for local and global citizenship in societies marked by such cultural and linguistic complexity that researchers have labeled them “super-diverse” (Blommaert & Rampton, 2011; Vertovec, 2007), older models of English as a Second Language instruction that aimed at the assimilation of non-English speakers into English-dominant societies are giving way to a new wave of pedagogical approaches including multiliteracies (New London Group, 2000) and pluriliteracies (Lin, 2013; Taylor & Snoddon, 2013) that recognize—and create citizens who recognize—the value of linguistic diversity, the necessity of critical linguistic awareness, and the possibility for linguistic inclusion and transformative change. My research investigates the meaning-making practices and identities of linguistically-diverse youth engaged in transformative multiliteracies pedagogies (Cummins, 2009) at an international seminar on youth leadership for social change. In an alternative international education setting, this study explores what is possible in terms of pedagogy, practice, and policy when we move beyond “ESL”/ “Native English Speaker” to include the plurilingual and multimodal resources, identities and practices of all participants.This study takes a critical approach to language and literacy pedagogy (Morgan & Ramanathan, 2005; Janks, 2010; Norton & Toohey, 2011), multilingualism (Blackledge & Creese, 2010; Alim 2010), plurilingualism (Lin, 2013), and language learning (Norton & Toohey, 2004). In addition, this investigation takes a community of practice approach to learning and competency (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1999) and a social practice approach to identity (Norton, 2000, 2013) and language (Pennycook, 2010a; Blackledge & Creese, 2010). This critical ethnography (Anderson, 1989; Carspecken, 2001; Talmy, 2010a) draws on a small stories (Bamberg & Georgakopoulou, 2008) narrative approach and a Bakhtinian (1981) discourse analysis to investigate the communicative practices and identity positionings of linguistically diverse youth. Video ethnography (Heath, Hindmarsh, & Luff, 2010) and interview as a social practice (Talmy, 2010c) were used to approach the rich discursive practices of the community as the participants engaged in activities that encourage and explore diversity, access, power, and design—the four interconnected elements of Janks’ (2009) critical literacy framework.
This research entitled “Promoting digital literacy in African education: ICT innovations in a Ugandan primary teachers’ college” was guided by two research questions: (1) What role can digital technology and digital literacy play in improving teacher education in a rural Ugandan primary teacher’s college? (2) How has ICT policy impacted curriculum development in Ugandan education and classroom practice in two rural Ugandan primary schools? It took the form of a qualitative case study in which data were collected using classroom observations, individual interviews, focus group discussions, semi-structured questionnaires, artefacts and document analyses. Findings of the study suggest that technology has a major role to play in improving teacher education in a rural Ugandan primary teachers’ college. These included: enhancing the tutors’ identities; increasing the tutors’ resourcefulness; promoting team work among the tutors; promoting the integration of the local with the global to facilitate teaching and learning; and promoting teamwork and team spirit among the tutors. Further, the study found that the ICT policy had positively impacted curriculum development and classroom practices in the two rural Ugandan primary schools. However, the study revealed that the positive impact of ICT policy on curriculum development and classroom practices were being undermined by multiple factors, including: fragile ICT infrastructure in the villages; inadequate supply of electricity; lack of access to the Internet; and inadequate digital literacy skills among teachers. It therefore concludes that government should take appropriate measures to address these challenges for digital literacy to sustainably take root in Ugandan education. Further studies will need to be carried out to identify appropriate strategies through which these challenges can be addressed in order to achieve meaningful educational change in Uganda.
Information societies, characterized by mobile populations, cross-border collaborations, and an emphasis on knowledge creation, increasingly value individuals’ ability to move knowledge across contexts. Yet, despite the privilege conferred on such practices, knowledge mobilization as semiotic practices remains relatively unexamined, its theorization lagging behind scholarly and public interest.This inquiry takes up the challenges of theorizing knowledge mobilization, testing the explanatory potential of Bernstein’s sociology of pedagogy and the pedagogic device as it relates to knowledge movement in and about classrooms (Bernstein 1977a, 1990, 2000, 2001). Its specific interest lies in: a) the potential contribution of students’ quotidian (particularly multilingual) knowledge to students’ apprenticeship in knowledge mobilization skills, and b) the circulation of knowledge regarding such practices among educational stakeholders. Theorizing knowledge mobilization as a practice of recontextualization, and capitalizing on well-established exotropic relations between Bernstein’s work and social semiotics, particularly systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and development of a visual grammar (Halliday, 1978, 2004; Hasan, 1999a; Kress, 2000c; Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996/2006), three propositions focused on multimodality, student voice and register are used to test Bernstein’s theories against students’ and teachers’ hypermodal texts (see http://multiliteracies.ca).The analysis reveals the complexity of the recontextualization tasks and the pertinence of Bernstein’s theories. Affordance of a range of semiotic resources facilitates recontextualization of quotidian knowledge within an academic register; enables drawing on multilingual capabilities to support a position as knower among parents and peers; and allows a student’s substantial design skills to be employed in the interpretation of a Shakespearean sonnet. But multimodality confounds as well as supports recontextualization of pedagogic texts and practices for purposes of public accountability: the dissolution of the textual boundaries integral to hypermodal texts simultaneously dissipates the teacher’s presence as author and knower. Here, Bernstein’s theories explain how stakeholders’ position as co-author of hypermodal texts combines with the texts’ predominant register to impede mobilization of teachers’ knowledge. The relevance of Bernstein’s theories to explanations of reversals of dominant knowledge flows and to pedagogic practices of knowledge mobilization are highlighted.The inquiry was supported by a SSHRC Standard Research Grant.
Studies with K-12 learners have identified benefits for language and content learning when students engage in multimodal pedagogical tasks that access students’ resources for learning, but few studies have examined how a multimodal pedagogical approach might benefit adult learners in non-academic contexts. This action research study was undertaken in a government-funded English language class for adult immigrants. It investigated, from student and teacher/researcher perspectives, the opportunities and challenges of a multimodal pedagogical approach for integrated content and language learning, as well as the level of students’ investment in the unit of learning. Theoretical frameworks that informed this research project included Norton and colleagues’ concepts of identity and investment, imagined communities (Anderson, 1991) and imagined identities, new literacies theory, Kress’s theory of multimodality, and the New London Group’s theoretical overview of a pedagogy of multiliteracies. Data were collected during a unit of study on the education system in Canada and consist of observations, focus group interviews, teacher and student reflection journals, and students’ projects. Data were coded using ATLAS.ti and analyzed iteratively to identify emergent themes. Both student and teacher perspectives were that the multimodal pedagogical approach enabled students’ meaning making in ways that supported longer-term learning and development of language beyond expectations for the officially designated level of the class. Participants were very invested in the topic, and the affordances of the multimodal project supported this investment by allowing them to make meaning in multiple modes, including but not limited to linguistic modes. Themes identified in the data include: exploration of identity issues, opportunities to design with their children, importance of authentic communicative experiences, accessing prior knowledge to learn, unique characteristics and needs of adult learners, and importance of the student-teacher relationship. Tentative implications are drawn for policy, practice, and further research.
This study examined the notions of culture and identity held by high school students, of mainly Punjabi descent, in a Punjabi 11 class as realized through their completion of a unit designed to allow them to learn about themselves and their attitudes and beliefs regarding what comprised their culture. Data was collected through a unit of study created to allow the students to explore their identities and included student journals, reflections and final projects and presentations. The findings suggest that while the students identified themselves as Canadian, a Canadian identity often appeared to be second to their ethnic or religious identity (such as being Punjabi or Sikh). What came to the forefront is that Punjabi students see themselves as having a unique cultural identity that they share with other students of similar backgrounds. For many, this essential group identity creates the foundation for their social networks. Two of the main factors that create this group identity appear to be religion and culture, both of which are taught at home by the family, supported by Punjabi media and validated by their friends at school. The expectations placed upon the participants by family are accepted and not often questioned and are instead considered to be duties that need to be fulfilled. Moreover, religion and culture are terms that appear, for some, to be interchangeable for many of the participants in this study and this does not pose a problem for them or their identities. There are also elements of being Punjabi and being Canadian that could be interpreted as being conflictual but are not perceived as such by the students, such as wanting to maintain traditional gender roles and marriage practices while also embracing the independence and freedom to choose your own path that comes with being Canadian.This study contributes to our understanding of adolescent Indo-Canadians by exploring what their notions of identity are and how they see themselves, within their social groups, school community and at home. Future research should be focused on a larger, more diverse population of Indo-Canadian teenagers to concretely substantiate the ideas presented in this study.