A lot of fantastic teaching and learning is happening in schools and adult community spaces, says Susan Holloway, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education. She hopes a research project she is heading will provide insight into strategies for engaging learners.
“Educators realize that teaching has to adapt to better reflect the current needs of broader societies,” she says. “Multiliteracies can help educators in that regard.”
The concept of multiliteracies expands upon traditional notions of literacy — narrowly defined as reading and writing — to consider cultural and linguistic factors and combine two or more modes of instruction to enhance learning.
Dr. Holloway and her research team have developed a web platform providing examples of innovative instruction: film clips from Grades 7 to 12, footage from a variety of adult and community learning spaces, interviews with educators and students, and even samples of assignments and lesson plans.
She calls The Multiliteracies Project a “timely resource” for educators during COVID-19, as it is completely online.
“Multiliteracies also emphasizes the importance of bringing social justice issues to the forefront in teaching and to develop digital literacies in ways that serve the needs of the learners,” notes Holloway.
She is the principal investigator on the project, funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight grant. The team also includes education professor Patricia Gouthro of Mount Saint Vincent University and UWindsor graduate students Rasha Qaisi, a teacher currently pursuing her M.Ed; Gelsea Pizzuto, a teacher and doctoral candidate; and Calum Hotchkiss, an MFA student and videographer. M.Ed student Naomi Turner has joined after receiving a MITACS Research Training Award.
Community collaborators include Clara Howitt, superintendent of education with the Greater Essex County District School Board, and Simone Le Gendre-King, a STEM curriculum consultant with the province of Nova Scotia.
Holloway and Gouthro’s research on multiliteracies is unique in its focus on adult and community educators and teachers in intermediate and senior classrooms. The study moves outside of schools to encompass a museum, an art gallery, a dance studio, a multicultural centre, and an institute for language learning.
“I believe that teachers and adult educators can engage in reciprocal learning, but traditionally these two fields have worked in isolation from one another,” Holloway says. “Research on multiliteracies focuses mostly on the elementary level, yet content only becomes more sophisticated and demanding as people become older.
“The way we teach, therefore, needs to be creative, challenging, and flexible.”