our words make worlds

Multiliteracies, Transformative Pedagogies and Teacher Professional Development

Title: Multiliteracies, transformative pedagogies and teacher professional development 
Session type: Panel
Chair: Jim Anderson, Goldsmiths, University of London
Participants: Vicky Macleroy, Goldsmiths, University of London; Yu-Chiao Chung, Goldsmiths, University of London; Mirela Dumić; Luma Hameed; Shabita Shamsad.

The ground-breaking work of the New London Group (1996) and its reconceptualising of literacy as multiliteracies has given us an improved understanding of the ways in which languages, cultures and communication media intersect in the process of ‘worldmaking’. Within the educational sphere it has opened up new directions and new pedagogical approaches. There have been difficulties, however, in translating these ideas into curriculum policy and classroom practice in ways that are sustainable. This raises important issues around teacher professional development and teacher identities.

The Critical Connections: Multilingual Digital Storytelling project (Goldsmiths. 2012-2017), provided an integrated and inclusive model of language-and-culture learning based on the holistic, creative and critical principles embedded in the multiliteracies philosophy.  It created a network of schools in the UK and overseas and enabled young people studying in very different contexts to create and share digital stories bilingually around a common theme such as fairness and belonging. Whilst teachers recognised the potential of the project, however, they were much less confident about how it could be put into practice effectively in their institutions. 

Given our commitment to a reflective practitioner model of teacher education and one which allows space for the ‘social processing’ of knowledge (Louis, 2006: 3), a framework which enabled ongoing dialogue between researchers and teachers was built into the design of the project from the beginning. This occurred formally through termly meetings and annual conferences, but also through ongoing contact via Skype and email. Whilst it was important to foster critical and reflective practices amongst teachers, there was also a need for researchers to be ready to question their own assumptions about their role and to ‘envision their work as creating learning communities within which they also participate as teachers and collaboratively negotiate new understandings of their profession and practices’ (Hawkins, 2004). An important additional influence on the evolving teachers’ perspective was working across modes of representation through drama, digital and arts-based approaches to develop teachers’ skills and confidence in implementing a multiliteracies pedagogy in the classroom. In order to capture the diverse experience of teachers and students involved in the project and to provide guidance for others interested in undertaking similar work a Handbook for Teachers was compiled at the end of the first stage of the project and resource packs based on interactions with museum objects in the second phase.

In this panel we brought together researchers and teachers to discuss the dialogic process through which transformative, student-centred pedagogy was developed and refined over the course of the project. The panel was made up of three teachers from different schools involved in the project (Mirela Dumić, Luma Hameed, Shabita Shamsad) and three researchers (Jim Anderson, Vicky Macleroy and Yu-Chiao Chung).