Dissertation Title: New Media, Multiliteracies, and the Globalized Classroom
This study, New Media, Multiliteracies, and the Globalized Classroom, contends that changing demographic diversity in American higher education and increasing globalization call for curricular and pedagogical transformation of writing courses. The writing curriculum for “globalized classrooms” (Himley, You, Matsuda) should be responsive to the resources students bring with them to the classroom and cultivate in them the multiple literacies—both old and new—needed to successfully navigate an increasingly global workplace and a complexly interwoven world (Cope and Kalantzis; Gee; Swenson et al; Bull and Anstey). The scaffolding of students’ natural meaning making capacities, and teaching of multiple literacies, such as visual, academic, critical, digital, multimodal, and intercultural, should take place simultaneously in the writing classes for “new literacies are in a synergistic, reciprocal, and constantly evolving relationship with older literacies” (Swenson et al. 357). Likewise, I argue that the interplay of new and old literacies in literate activities in the academy and professions can lead to productive interactions and work.
The dissertation, then, argues that writing curriculum and pedagogies should respond to multiple stakes: the desired literacy outcomes of writing curriculum in the 21st century; diverse students’ expectations for writing curriculum; and the field’s acknowledgement that our current pedagogical practices are often inadequate for preparing diverse students for today’s communication and composition challenges (Canagarajah, Matsuda, You, Selfe and Hawisher, New London Group, Horner and Trimbur; Horner et al.). In fact, this study is an investigation into how diverse students in a sophomore level writing class in a large research university in the US North East in the Spring of 2012 responded to a curriculum and pedagogical approach meant to speak to those multifarious stakes. The pilot course drew insights and resources from some closely aligned fields of new media, globalization, World Englishes, intercultural communication, literacy studies, and media studies, exploring and exploiting the potentials these intersecting fields have for improving the practice of teaching writing to a diverse body of students. It took a multiliterate approach to teaching writing in its expanded sense with assignments in multiple media and modes— alphabetic and digital literacy narratives, rhetorical analysis of a digital artifact (music video, ad, cartoon/movie clip etc.), argument essay, remediation of argument essay into web forms for local and global audiences, collaborative documentary production, blogging, and small group presentations.
Through course materials, individual and group assignments, and individual conferences, students had the opportunity to practice and learn different sets of literacies across four units of the course—critical, visual and rhetorical (Unit 1), essayist and information (unit 2), multimedia and intercultural (unit 3), and multimodal and global (unit 4). To assess the course and its outcome, my dissertation research included the analysis of multiple sources of data: 1) interviews with research participants; 2) teacher reflections on classroom implementation of the course components; 3) observations of research participants at work inside and outside the class; 4) student artifacts ranging from blog responses, literacy narratives, argument essays and reflections to web sites and web design reflections, and documentary films and reflections; and 5) an analysis of curricular and pedagogical artifacts. I triangulated those data and analyzed them rhetorically in order to make sense of the effectiveness of the pedagogical approach—multiliterate composition pedagogy— adopted in this particular writing class. While analyzing the data, I accounted for both evidence and counterevidence to emerging themes and interpretations; took into consideration the context in which students produced their artifacts; studied linguistic or discourse features of their artifacts; examined the artifacts thematically; and drew on pertinent ideas/insights from the published literatures from allied fields to inform my interpretation of students’ writing practices.
The findings from this study are presented in chapter three and four of the dissertation while the first two chapters situate the study in relation to the Rhetoric and Writing Studies and discuss methodology.
Chapter One, “Demographic Shift and the Exigencies for a Multiliterate Composition Pedagogy,” traces the trends and patterns of demographic shifts in American higher education and their implications for our composition classes. It also reviews relevant literature and presents the exigencies, gaps, research goals and questions for the study.
Chapter Two, “Research Design and Participant Profiles,” describes the research methods and methodologies adopted for the study and engages the methodological traditions in which the design of this research is based. This particular chapter also presents brief literacy bios of the research participants and explains the rationale for recreating those snapshots.
Chapter three, “(Teaching) Essayist Literacy in the Multimedia World,” primarily deals with the ‘traditional’ essayist literacy, and considers how we can make essayist literacy instruction and writing assignments steeped in that tradition inclusive and pertinent to a diverse body of students in this age of multimedia. To that end, the whole chapter revolves around one central question: What does a multimediated essayist literacy look like in the 21st century classroom? It also situates a course unit on essayist literacy by invoking essayist literacy tradition in the Western world and positioning it against other essay traditions that today’s students bring to the class from around the world. It then recounts a detailed process of the design of the unit (unit 2) on and assignments for essayist literacy in mutliliteracy and multimedia contexts, and analyzes the findings from the implementation of those pilot materials in the class.
Chapter four, “Remediation, Media Convergence, and the Expanded Notion of Composition in a Writing Class,” examines how students understand the evolutionary nature of media; discern the interactive relation between old and new media or literacies; engage the expanded notion of composition and cultivate multiple literacies, such as multimodal, intercultural, global, critical and visual through active production and reflective consumption of an array of old and new media compositions; and gain insights into the rhetoricity of different mediums of composition. It presents remediation, and collaborative documentary production as potential assignments that allow students to practice and learn to make meanings in multiple semiotic modes and in multiple sites of literacy which, in turn, bring home to them the idea that literacy practices, including writing, evolve or should evolve with the advancement in media and technologies.
Based on the findings of this study and interviews with a few scholar-teachers calling for reframing composition, chapter five, “Implications and Future Research Directions,” presents potential curricular and pedagogical models for the globalized classrooms. This chapter particularly underlines the fact that for larger curricular and pedagogical shifts to transpire in writing classrooms, professional development of teachers will be imperative, and so will be their access to resources and their acquisition of skills to use those resources effectively to help cultivate multilierate capabilities in students. This is where the writing programs (WPs), or writing program administrators (WPAs) become implicated in the successful implementation of a multilterate approach to writing. As major actors in professional development and resource mobilization and allocation decisions, WPAs can capitalize on the leverage they have to steer their programmatic orientations toward multiliteracies. It is also vital that scholarly engagements in rhetoric and composition center on curricular innovations, pedagogical experimentations, and interdisciplinary alliance in light of the changing student demographics and the shifting landscape of American higher education, and the world.
This study, therefore, is an experiment with and investigation into a pilot response to multiple exigences of a diverse writing classroom, and presents multiliterate curriculum and pedagogy as a way to scaffold students’ current literacy practices and cultivate in them the multiple old and new literacies that they require to wrestle with the composition and communication needs of a globalized world.