In 1996, the term multiliteracies was coined by a group of researchers, educators and visionaries who called themselves the New London Group. A multiliteracies pedagogy accepts and encourages the use of a wide range of linguistic, cultural, communicative and technological perspectives and tools to help students better prepare for a rapidly changing, globalized world. This includes using linguistic, visual, oral, spatial and gestural modes of communication in teaching.
The multiliteracies pedagogical approach involves four key aspects. Situated practice involves learning grounded in students’ own life experiences. Overt instruction involves the development of abstract, generalizing concepts and theoretical synthesis of concepts. Critical framing supports questioning and analyzing common-sense assumptions. Transformed practice is where learners apply new understandings to create something new or try out new knowledge in different situations.
Dr. Terry Loerts, associate professor of education, instructs teacher candidates in Redeemer’s bachelor of education program. She spoke about multiliteracies pedagogy as part of a presentation at Redeemer in January. Every faculty member who is up for tenure is required to give a public faculty colloquium whose topic is based on their tenure paper and area of research. She explained how teaching from a multiliteracies pedagogy fits within the Reformed framework.
“Multiliteracies pedagogy places students within the culture,” says Loerts. “It allows them to believe they can do something to shape culture more fully while working with multiple modes.” She believes the pedagogy also reflects God’s image. “It engages the whole person. There are students with different abilities, gifts and interests. Each student needs to be remembered in the planning process because every student learns differently. A Christian approach needs to take into account these complex differences. It’s a faithful approach.”
It’s a deep learning exercise that allows them to experience the gift of literacy that God has given them.
In his book, On Christian Teaching: Practicing Faith in the Classroom, David Smith writes that “the shape of the teaching and learning process affects how students access and experience that content, helping weave the web of values, relationships and actions within which learning becomes meaningful. An account of Christian education that focuses only on the truth of what is taught, and fails to address the meanings molded through how it is taught and learned is at best incomplete.”
Through her literacy courses, Loerts engages teacher candidates in practicing what they will eventually teach. A visual journal project invites them to think about one or two big ideas in the course and communicate them through a visual journal.
“It’s a deep learning exercise that allows them to experience the gift of literacy that God has given them,” Loerts says. Participants have provided positive feedback about the experience, saying they learned something valuable by being vulnerable and that visual learning can be therapeutic and transformative. One participant said the visual journals “required thoughtfulness… reflection… and that there is something deeper to stop and think about.” A number of teacher candidates went on to use visual journaling with the students in their practicums.
Multiliteracies pedagogy, Loerts states, is a redemptive pedagogy. “It’s a means to teach in a way that demonstrates God’s redemption. Every facet of creation now has the potential for redemption. Learning in this way is hopeful.”
In Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom, Donovan Graham puts it this way: “We are called to apply biblical truth to the whole education process, not just parts of it.”