Multiliteracies Pedagogy

To frontload your understanding of what multiliteracy is, this brief, visually wonderful video will be your guide.

Now, to apply theory to the video, the following will act as your brief multiliteracies tutorial.

Traditional ways of teaching, such as one reading for the entire class, no longer hold the same relevance in today’s classrooms as they did in the past.  Students bring diverse backgrounds to the classroom while having a variety of media inputs at the disposal.  How then do teachers keep up with student interests in an effort to increase levels of achievement while still holding true to learning outcomes prescribed by the Ministry of Education here in Ontario? Multiliteracy pedagogy may be an answer to this question.

Multiliteracy pedagogy is designed to engage the learner through focusing on their background and interests and better prepares them to deal with the intricacies of the world.  At the heart of multiliteracy pedagogy are four key terms: situated practice, over instruction, critical framing, and transformed practice.  These four components of multliteracy pedagogy stem from the New London Group’s work in the late 1990s on redesigning how educators view literacy in the classroom.

The basis for each component is as follows (adapted from the work of the New London Group, 1996).

Situated Practice: Engaging learners in meaningful, authentic lessons/projects that incorporate one’s community and background.

Overt Instruction: Teaching in the moment to better guide the student towards success.

Critical Framing: Looking at any given message from another perspective to recognize its value on multiple levels.

Transformed Practice: Taking one’s understanding and placing it another context.  In essence, a juxtaposition of understanding.

For further understanding, visit How to teach Multiliteracies.

Promoting Multilteracies pedagogy:

It provides students with choice and possible real life applications above and beyond resume or essay writing.  It focuses on promoting and celebrating the background of each student, embracing their mother tongue, and seeing value in the process of differentiation.  Multiliteracies pedagogy allows teachers to reflect upon the learning styles of their students in an effort to venture towards a variety of learning opportunities including raps, rants, and perhaps even creating or reading info-graphics. Multiliteracies pedagogy is more than just understanding and decoding meaning from media, it is about embracing the complexities of the world’s communication system.



Cazden, C., Cope, B., Fairclough, N., Gee, J., et al. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.


2 Responses to Multiliteracies Pedagogy

  1. Mason says:

    Thought/Question #1

    First, I think it is important to note that I think there is still importance behind pen and paper writing. (no, I don’t think we should still be practicing printing, and yes, I think we should be teaching students how to touch type), however, as educators, we need to vocalize how important multiliteracies pedagogy is to parents, and members of our students’ learning communities.

    McDermott (2010) suggests that “using different modes of representation provided students who were not strong writers, were lacking confidence in their writing skills, or were not motivated to produce written products with an alternative way to express their understanding” (p. 34). That said, I think one of the most important things to do, is show parents how multimodal texts are assisting their children in disseminating knowledge, designing, and showing their understanding. By having children post presentations online, or give multimodal presentations to an audience of parents, or on video, parents often see the value in it. Any time I have shown parents the multimodal creations that my students have come up with, they are always in shock and awe that their child was able to produce something that looked so professional, or was so multifaceted. I think by sharing what the children are capable of, the parents will fall in line, and see the value in it.

    The other thing that I think is vastly important, is that when you are creating such a multitude of multimodal projects, it is important for students to keep a digital portfolio of their work. Parents get upset, when they are unable to see what their children have been doing. It is easy to open up a notebook, and look through it, but when students multimodal, or digital work is dispersed in different areas, it is hard to show parents how they are progressing. By keeping everything tidy in a digital portfolio, it provides parents a place to look at their child’s work whenever they want. This keeps parents more informed as well, so you may have less meetings where they want to look through their child’s notebooks. It also give the child a specific purpose and audience. –Within this as well, you can leave room for them to reflect on their learning, and have parents be able to see their meta-cognition
    Bottom line, I think you need to prove that it works.

    Thought/Question #2

    I think that multiliteraceis pedagogy supports the needs of the Ontario Curriculum. The downfall is that multiliteraceis paradigms focus more on localized curriculum, and inquiry based projects. That said, when guided in the right direction, (especially when rubrics are involved, while constricting), students are able to create, and design. I think the beauty of the Ontario Curriculum (while frustrating at times) is that the expectations are quite vague, and can be twisted in a number of directions through a variety of products, designs, and lessons to be covered. While there are some very specific expectations that need to be covered through overt instruction, I think that the curriculum suits the four frames, and that they are in fact quite easy to incorporate. I am currently working with the National Curriculum of Great Britain, and I find it far more rigid, and harder to incorporate my learning.

    I love the pictograph by the way! I think I will be incorporating one of these into my final assignment.

    Thought/Question #3

    As I’ve stated in the last module, I think that one of my favourite part of multiliteracies pedagogy is the element of design. By giving students the opportunity to create something in a mode of their choice, students are able to show their identities more, and use knowledge from outside school to design, present and create. This includes co-crating assignments, and expectations with the teacher. Since students will then be more familiar with the content, it leaves more room for the teacher to float around, and facilitate the learning, breaking down these ‘barriers’ of multiliteracies.

    McVee et al. (2012) suggest that in multiliteracies practice, “learners become co-designers of knowledge, developing habits of mind in which they are comfortable members of knowledge-producing and knowledge-sharing communities” (McVee et al., 2012, p. 29). I think that through learning together, and creating together, there is a sense of community. And that community should be judgement free, where students feel safe to create meaning, and design. With students feeling safe to create multimodally in a way that suits them, barriers will be brought down.

    I think what is so interesting about this pedagogy being so new (or just new to me) is that we are all learning together in this class. By creating things in groups, being involved in online discussion, and trying new multimodal designs (like this blog post), we use co-creating as a way of learning from eachother, and reflecting on our learning. The barriers of multiliteracies pedagogy seemed miles high when we started this course, and together we have figured out how to break them down.

    By using co-creating in our classrooms, we are better able to incorporate our student’s identities, and interests to get them actively engaged in the learning. McVee et al. (2012) also mention the necessity of considering learners, interests, experiences, and skills. “As teachers, we need to realize that students come from different ‘information backgrounds” (p. 20).

    Multiliteracies pedagogy also focuses so strongly on design. By co-creating students not only design their multimodal projects, but they are also a part of the design of the success criteria and the expectations. The New London Group (1996) suggest that through “Overt Instruction, through which students develop an explicit metalanguage of Design; Critical Framing, which interprets the social context and purpose of Designs of meaning; and Transformed Practice, in which students, as meaning-makers, become Designers of social futures.” (New London Group, 1996). I think that co-creating better helps students become designers on a number of different levels.
    Miller et al. (2012) advocate that “The purpose for engaging in the actions and talk of embodied learning… is usually deeply connected to participants’ sense of identity and felt need for meaningful activity.” (p.121). By allowing students to become co-creators of their learning projects, they should be more engaged, because they creating meaningful projects for themselves to work on.

    I feel like I am rambling now, and spitting out research, but really, there is so much to be said about how we need to break down barriers of traditional education by incorporating multiliteracies pedagogy. When incorporated properly, the barriers will come down, just as they have for us in this course.


  2. Pingback: Supporting Teachers in Using Student Voice | The Enthusiastic Learner

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