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Leveraging adolescents' multimodal literacies to promote dialogic discussions of literature in one secondary English classroom

Dissertation
Author: James S. Chisholm
Abstract:
Although researchers have identified the positive relationship between students' academic literacy learning and dialogic discussion--talk about texts in which students build on and transform each other's ideas--this pattern of discourse occurs rarely in most secondary English classrooms. Promising research on the varied multimodal literacies in which adolescents are engaged in their out-of-school lives suggests that these literacies may inform academic literacy practices such as dialogic discussions of literature, but little is known about how such literacies might be leveraged to make academic literacy instruction more effective. This dissertation study identified ways in which students' out-of-school and multimodal literacies could be leveraged to shape their participation in dialogic discussions of literature in one secondary English classroom. To that end, this study comprised an empirical investigation of students' participation in dialogic discussion after completing either collaborative multimodal or collaborative unimodal projects, and traced focal students' participation across small group and whole class discourse contexts to investigate whether and how student learning was facilitated through multimodality. Drawing on classroom discourse analysis and ethnographic data collection techniques, this comparative study of two sections of one 12 th -grade English course explored the centrality of semiotic mediation and transmediation as these processes supported students' participation in dialogic discussions. Findings support the use of collaborative multimodal instructional activities to facilitate students' internalization of dialogic discourse norms and scaffold students' participation in discussions across discourse contexts.

vi TABLE OF CONTENTS 1.0

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION .............................................................................1

1.1

SOCIOCULTURAL AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT ..................................3

1.2

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK ...................................................................5

1.2.1

Mediation and academic literacy learning ................................................6

1.2.2

Transmediation and academic literacy learning .......................................7

1.3

RESEARCH QUESTIONS ..............................................................................8

1.4

DESCRIPTION OF METHODOLOGY ....................................................... 12

1.4.1

Contexts and participants ........................................................................ 12

1.4.2

Procedures ................................................................................................ 13

1.4.3

Data sources .............................................................................................. 14

1.4.4

Description of data analysis and interpretation ...................................... 14

1.5

THEORY, RESEARCH, AND PRACTICE .................................................. 16

1.6

SUMMARY OF INTRODUCTION ............................................................... 17

1.7

ORGANIZATION OF CHAPTERS .............................................................. 18

2.0

CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW .............................................................. 20

2.1

DIALOGIC DISCUSSION AND LITERACY LEARNING ......................... 23

2.1.1

Learning outcomes associated with dialogic discussions ........................ 25

2.1.2

Teaching practices that support dialogic discussions.............................. 26

vii 2.1.2.1

Linguistic teacher moves .................................................................. 27

2.1.2.2

Nonverbal teacher moves.................................................................. 28

2.1.2.3

Pedagogical teacher moves ............................................................... 28

2.1.3

Student practices that support dialogic discussions ................................ 29

2.1.3.1

Cognitive and linguistic practices..................................................... 30

2.1.3.2

Social and interpersonal practices.................................................... 32

2.1.4

Teacher challenges for promoting dialogic discussions .......................... 32

2.1.5

Transitioning from “gentle inquisitions” to “grand conversations” ...... 34

2.1.6

Building dialogic classrooms for the future ............................................. 39

2.2

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON TRANSMEDIATION ................... 41

2.2.1

The nature of mediation ........................................................................... 41

2.2.2

Dialectic process ....................................................................................... 46

2.3

PERSPECTIVES ON TRANSMEDIATION IN PRACTICE ...................... 48

2.3.1

Connecting in-school and out-of-school literacy practices ...................... 49

2.3.2

Developing metacognitive awareness ....................................................... 51

2.3.3

Establishing an inquiry-based classroom ................................................ 53

2.4

TRANSMEDIATION’S CONTRIBUTION TO VYGOTSKY’S SOCIOCULTURAL THEORY ...................................................................................... 55

2.4.1

Scientific and spontaneous concepts ........................................................ 55

2.5

TRANSMEDIATION’S CONTRIBUTION TO PRACTICE IN ENGLISH EDUCATION .................................................................................................................. 57

2.6

CHALLENGES TO RESEARCHERS .......................................................... 59

2.7

SUMMARY OF RESEARCH AND THEORETICAL OVERVIEW .......... 60

viii 3.0

CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY ....................................................................... 61

3.1

OVERVIEW OF PROCEDURES .................................................................. 61

3.2

PARTICIPANTS ............................................................................................ 66

3.2.1

Focal students: Period 2 ........................................................................... 68

3.2.2

Focal students: Period 3 ........................................................................... 69

3.3

DATA SOURCES ........................................................................................... 71

3.3.1

Field notes ................................................................................................. 71

3.3.2

Student background surveys .................................................................... 72

3.3.3

Planning and debriefing sessions ............................................................. 73

3.3.4

Multimodal and unimodal small group discussions ................................ 73

3.3.5

Multimodal and unimodal projects ......................................................... 74

3.3.6

Whole class discussions ............................................................................ 74

3.3.7

Interviews ................................................................................................. 74

3.4

CONTEXT OF THE INVESTIGATION ...................................................... 75

3.4.1

A profile of Mr. Smith’s classroom .......................................................... 75

3.4.1.1

Mr. Smith’s description of his students ........................................... 77

3.4.1.2

Mr. Smith’s classroom ...................................................................... 79

3.4.1.3

Setting discourse norms .................................................................... 80

3.5

DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION ............................................. 83

3.5.1

Classroom discourse analysis ................................................................... 83

3.5.1.1

Coding multimodal and unimodal small group discussions for semiotic mediation .......................................................................................... 83

3.5.1.2

Coding whole class discussions for dialogic engagement. ................ 84

ix 3.5.2

Interviews, field notes, and planning and debriefing sessions ................ 86

3.5.3

Multimodal and unimodal projects and student background surveys ... 87

3.6

SUMMARY OF DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION ................. 87

3.7

LIMITATIONS ............................................................................................... 88

4.0

CHAPTER IV: FINDINGS FROM CYCLE 1 ...................................................... 90

4.1

OBSERVING EMERGING CLASSROOM COMMUNITIES .................... 90

4.1.1

Discussing Beowulf in Period 2 ................................................................ 90

4.1.2

Discussing Beowulf in Period 3 ................................................................ 94

4.2

BASELINE DISCUSSIONS: WEEK 3 .......................................................... 95

4.2.1

Baseline discussions of Grendel in Periods 2 and 3.................................. 96

4.2.1.1

Baseline student talk ......................................................................... 97

4.2.1.2

Baseline teacher talk ....................................................................... 101

4.3

CYCLE 1: WEEK 7 ...................................................................................... 105

4.3.1

Cycle 1 small group discourse analyses ................................................. 105

4.3.1.1

Cycle 1 unimodal small group talk ................................................. 106

4.3.1.2

Cycle 1 multimodal small group talk ............................................. 121

4.3.1.3

Comparing unimodal and multimodal small group work in cycle 1 134

4.3.2

Cycle 1 whole class discussions .............................................................. 135

4.3.2.1

Multimodal and unimodal whole class discussion discourse analysis in cycle 1 ........................................................................................................ 135

4.3.3

Connections across discourse contexts .................................................. 146

4.3.3.1

Cycle 1 small group to whole class connections ............................. 146

x 4.3.3.2

Unimodal focal group connections in cycle 1 ................................. 149

4.3.3.3

Multimodal focal group connections in cycle 1 .............................. 153

5.0

CHAPTER V: FINDINGS FROM CYCLE 2 ...................................................... 160

5.1

CYCLE 2: WEEK 13 .................................................................................... 160

5.1.1

Unimodal and multimodal small group discourse analyses in cycle 2 .. 161

5.1.1.1

Cycle 2 unimodal focal group: Elizabeth, Mike, and Natalie ........ 166

5.1.1.2

Summary of unimodal small group talk in cycle 2 ........................ 171

5.1.1.3

Cycle 2 multimodal focal group: Leonard, Louise, Nick, and Tim 172

5.1.1.4

Summary of multimodal small group talk in cycle 2 ..................... 179

5.1.1.5

Comparing unimodal and multimodal small group work in cycle 2 179

5.1.2

Cycle 2 whole class discussions .............................................................. 180

5.1.2.1

Unimodal and multimodal whole class discussion discourse analysis in cycle 2 ........................................................................................................ 181

5.1.3

Connections across discourse contexts in cycle 2 .................................. 191

5.1.3.1

Small group to whole class connections in cycle 2 ......................... 195

6.0

CHAPTER VI: FINDINGS FROM CYCLE 3 .................................................... 201

6.1

CYCLE 3: WEEK 20 .................................................................................... 201

6.1.1

Unimodal and multimodal small group discourse analyses in cycle 3 .. 202

6.1.1.1

Cycle 3 multimodal focal group: Elizabeth, Mike, and Eddie ...... 206

6.1.1.2

The multimodal digital video .......................................................... 211

6.1.1.3

Summary of multimodal small group work in cycle 3 ................... 212

xi 6.1.1.4

Cycle 3 unimodal focal group: Leonard, Louise, and Nick ........... 214

6.1.1.5

Letter from Inigo and Fezzik to Vizzini ......................................... 221

6.1.1.6

Summary of unimodal and multimodal small group talk in cycle 3 222

6.1.1.7

Comparing unimodal and multimodal small group work in cycle 3 223

6.1.2

Cycle 3 whole class discussions .............................................................. 225

6.1.2.1

Unimodal and multimodal whole class discussion discourse analysis in cycle 3 ........................................................................................................ 231

6.1.3

Cycle 3 connections across discourse contexts ...................................... 234

7.0

CHAPTER VII: INTERVIEWS........................................................................... 240

7.1

THEMES ....................................................................................................... 241

7.1.1

Speaking in small groups prepared students to speak in larger groups 241

7.1.2

Writing provided students with the time and space to develop their ideas 242

7.1.3

Discussing texts in small groups afforded students the opportunity to consider multiple perspectives .............................................................................. 245

7.1.4

Multimodal activities afforded students the opportunity to expand their ideas and interpret texts differently ..................................................................... 246

7.1.5

Different mediums engaged different types of learners differently ...... 248

7.1.6

The process of working with different mediums facilitated interpretations of the text ..................................................................................... 249

xii 7.1.6.1

Summary of interview data ............................................................ 251

8.0

CHAPTER VIII: CONCLUSION ........................................................................ 252

8.1

RESEARCH QUESTION 1 .......................................................................... 252

8.1.1

Was the nature and quality of discussions distinct (and if so, how?) between a class in which students previously engaged in a collaborative multimodal activity and one in which they previously engaged in a collaborative unimodal activity? ................................................................................................. 252

8.2

RESEARCH QUESTION 2 .......................................................................... 257

8.2.1

What was the nature of the semiotic mediation and transmediation that took place as groups of students undertook multimodal and unimodal activities? 257

8.3

RESEARCH QUESTION 3 .......................................................................... 259

8.3.1

How did semiotic mediation and transmediation shape discussion and literary interpretation? ......................................................................................... 259

8.3.1.1

Scaffolded participation across discourse contexts........................ 259

8.3.1.2

Internalized discourse norms ......................................................... 261

8.3.1.3

Contextual Forces ........................................................................... 262

8.4

IMPLICATIONS .......................................................................................... 267

8.4.1

Future research implications ................................................................. 267

8.4.1.1

Interaction of student dynamic-talk-mode .................................... 267

8.4.1.2

Cross-sectional analyses.................................................................. 268

8.4.1.3

Limitations of oral discourse analyses ........................................... 268

8.4.2

Implications for practice ........................................................................ 269

xiii 8.5

SUMMARY ................................................................................................... 270

APPENDIX A ........................................................................................................................ 272

APPENDIX B ........................................................................................................................ 284

APPENDIX C ........................................................................................................................ 286

APPENDIX D ........................................................................................................................ 288

APPENDIX E ........................................................................................................................ 290

APPENDIX F ........................................................................................................................ 291

APPENDIX G ........................................................................................................................ 293

APPENDIX H ........................................................................................................................ 294

APPENDIX I ......................................................................................................................... 296

APPENDIX J ......................................................................................................................... 297

APPENDIX K ........................................................................................................................ 299

APPENDIX L ........................................................................................................................ 300

APPENDIX M ....................................................................................................................... 302

APPENDIX N ........................................................................................................................ 304

APPENDIX O ........................................................................................................................ 305

APPENDIX P ........................................................................................................................ 306

APPENDIX Q ........................................................................................................................ 307

BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................................. 308

xiv LIST OF TABLES

Table 1. Research Questions

.......................................................................................................9 Table 2. Survey Responses to “How do you typically participate during literature discussions?”

................................................................................................................................................. 69 Table 3. Survey Responses to “What do you think is the purpose of literature discussions?”

..... 70 Table 4. Characteristics of Baseline Discussion by Class Period

................................................ 97 Table 5. Number of Student Moves During Baseline Discussion by Class Period

...................... 97 Table 6. Number of Teacher Moves During Baseline Discussion by Class Period

................... 102 Table 7. Cycle 1 Small Group Discussion Characteristics

........................................................ 107 Table 8. Cycle 1 Unimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Eddie, Allison, and Luke

............................................................................................................................................... 109 Table 9. Cycle 1 Unimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Josh, Alan, and Nathan

.. 110 Table 10. Cycle 1 Unimodal Focal Group Discussion Characteristics: Elizabeth, Mike, and Natalie

.................................................................................................................................... 111 Table 11. Cycle 1 Multimodal Focal Group Discussion Characteristics: Leonard, Louise, and Nick

........................................................................................................................................ 122 Table 12. Cycle 1 Multimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Kevin, Hannah, and Ian

............................................................................................................................................... 123

xv Table 13. Cycle 1 Multimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Nathan, Riley, and Nelson

..................................................................................................................................... 123 Table 14. Cycle 1 Multimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Saphire, Adam, Kelvin, and Tom

.................................................................................................................................. 123 Table 15. Number of Student Moves During Cycle 1 Discussion by Condition

....................... 136 Table 16. Number of Teacher Moves During Cycle 1 Discussion by Condition

....................... 141 Table 17. Characteristics of Cycle 1 Discussion by Condition

................................................. 145 Table 18. Student Participation and Connection of Ideas Across Discourse Contexts in Cycle 1

............................................................................................................................................... 148 Table 19. Cycle 2 Small Group Discussion Characteristics

...................................................... 162 Table 20. Cycle 2 Unimodal Focal Group Discussion Characteristics: Elizabeth, Mike, and Natalie

.................................................................................................................................... 163 Table 21. Cycle 2 Unimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Eddie, Allison, and Luke

............................................................................................................................................... 163 Table 22. Cycle 2 Unimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Josh, Alan, and Nathan

163 Table 23. Cycle 2 Multimodal Focal Group Discussion Characteristics: Leonard, Louise, Nick, and Tim

................................................................................................................................... 164 Table 24. Cycle 2 Multimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Kevin, Hannah, and Riley

....................................................................................................................................... 164 Table 25. Cycle 2 Multimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Nathan, Sal, and Nelson

............................................................................................................................................... 164 Table 26. Cycle 2 Multimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Saphire, Adam, Kelvin, and Tom

.................................................................................................................................. 165

xvi Table 27. Number of Student Moves During Cycle 2 Discussion by Condition

....................... 182 Table 28. Number of Teacher Moves During Cycle 2 Discussion by Condition

....................... 182 Table 29. Characteristics of Cycle 2 Discussion by Condition

................................................. 183 Table 30. Student Participation and Connection of Ideas Across Discourse Contexts in Cycle 2

............................................................................................................................................... 192 Table 31. Cycle 3 Small Group Discussion Characteristics

...................................................... 203 Table 32. Cycle 3 Multimodal Focal Group Discussion Characteristics: Elizabeth, Mike, and Eddie

...................................................................................................................................... 205 Table 33. Cycle 3 Multimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Josh, Alan, Nathan, and Luke

........................................................................................................................................ 205 Table 34. Cycle 3 Unimodal Focal Group Discussion Characteristics: Leonard, Louise, and Nick

............................................................................................................................................... 205 Table 35. Cycle 3 Unimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Kevin, Hannah, and Riley

............................................................................................................................................... 206 Table 36. Cycle 3 Unimodal Small Group Discussion Characteristics: Adam, Kelvin, and Tom

............................................................................................................................................... 206 Table 37. Number of Student Moves During Cycle 3 Discussion by Condition

....................... 226 Table 38. Overview of Student Moves Across Baseline, Cycle 1, Cycle 2, and Cycle 3 Discussions

............................................................................................................................. 227 Table 39. Number of Teacher Moves During Cycle 3 Discussion by Condition

....................... 228 Table 40. Overview of Teacher Moves Across Baseline, Cycle 1, Cycle 2, and Cycle 3 Discussions

............................................................................................................................. 228 Table 41. Characteristics of Cycle 3 Discussion by Condition

................................................. 231

xvii Table 42. Characteristics of Baseline, Cycle 1, Cycle 2, and Cycle 3 Discussion by Class Period

............................................................................................................................................... 231 Table 43. Student Participation and Connection of Ideas Across Discourse Contexts in Cycle 3

............................................................................................................................................... 238

xviii LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1. Cycle 1 Multimodal Focal Group Project: Leonard, Louise, and Nick

...................... 130 Figure 2. Cycle 1 Multimodal Project: Riley, Nathan, and Nelson

........................................... 132 Figure 3. Cycle 1 Multimodal Project: Saphire, Adam, Kelvin, and Tom

................................. 132 Figure 4. Cycle 1 Multimodal Project: Kevin, Hannah, and Ian

............................................... 133 Figure 5. Cycle 1 Multimodal Focal Group Talk Prior to Whole Class Discussion

.................. 154 Figure 6. Cycle 2 Multimodal Focal Group Project: Leonard, Louise, Nick, and Tim.

............. 177 Figure 7. Student and Teacher Dialogic Moves by Class Period Across All Whole Class Discussions

............................................................................................................................. 254 Figure 8. Student and Teacher Words Per Turn by Class Period Across All Whole Class Discussions

............................................................................................................................. 254 Figure 9. Dialogic Spells by Class Period Across All Whole Class Discussions

....................... 256

1 1.0 CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION Classroom discussions can provide important learning opportunities for students in many disciplines. When well planned and implemented, discussions can lead students to (a) participate in discipline-specific ways of thinking and doing (Applebee, 1996; Burroughs & Smagorinsky, 2009; O’Connor & Michaels, 1996), (b) craft their own ideas and consider others’ ideas (Applebee, Langer, Nystrand, & Gamoran, 2003; Forman, McCormick, & Donato, 1998), and (c) take ownership over and author their own ideas (Engle & Conant, 2002; Beck, McKeown, Sandora, Kucan, & Worthy, 1996). Through discussion, students learn both the “how” and the “what” of learning in various disciplines. Discussions of literature in English language arts (ELA) classrooms represent especially powerful literacy learning opportunities for students. Since the content of instruction (literary texts of various sorts) often defies “right” or “wrong” answers, students’ abilities to construct textual interpretations become critical in terms of learning content knowledge successfully— indeed, it may be said that students’ abilities to interpret and discuss their interpretations with others comprise productive disciplinary engagement (Engle & Conant, 2002) in ELA. Effective interpretive discussions often resemble naturally occurring conversation or dialogue between teacher and students, what Nystrand and Gamoran (1991), drawing on Soviet literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1981), referred to as “dialogic discussion.” Generally, such dialogic discussions of literature position students as active meaning-making participants in their

2 own learning while literary texts are positioned as open for multiple interpretations. As natural as such a discussion might seem, this pattern of interaction is atypical in secondary ELA settings (Nystrand, 1997; Nystrand, Wu, Gamoran, Zeiser, & Long, 2003). As a result, dialogic discussions in which teachers pose open-ended questions without pre-specified answers, students ask questions as a primary means of learning content, and participants in the discussion take up others’ responses while teachers “incorporate, probe, and honor students’ multiple voices in the classroom” (Juzwik, Nystrand, Kelly, & Sherry, 2008, p. 1116) occur infrequently. The use of dialogic discussion as an instructional tool presupposes a broader conception of literacy than that which is realized in many secondary English classrooms; that is, the ability to read and write print texts (Street, 1995). Although dialogic discussions have been shown to increase student performance on measures of reading comprehension (Nystrand, 2006), among other “neutral” academic skills, dialogic discussions are fundamentally ideological (Street, 1995). In other words, dialogic discussions of literature in English classrooms are imbued with the social, cultural, political, linguistic, and historical contexts that compose the school environment. Using a more encompassing conception of literacy, this study builds on the theoretical and empirical work done on multiliteracies (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008; Cope & Kalantzis, 2000; New London Group, 1996), and multimodal literacies (Jewitt, 2008; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2001) to define literacy as “what people do with texts broadly defined” (Larson & Marsh, 2005, p. 21). As Larson and Marsh (2005) noted: Literacy is intimately tied to contexts of use or what people do with literacy in formal and informal settings both inside and outside school. Literacy is not just reading and writing

3 English text (in English dominant settings), but is a multimodal social practice with specific affordances in different contexts. (pp. 20-21) Using this definition of literacy allows me to situate dialogic discussion as a literacy practice as well as a text in its own right. This definition also highlights the important role played by students’ out-of-school, social, and multimodal practices. In this study, I employed discourse analytic research methods to examine how students’ out-of-school, social, and multimodal practices could be leveraged in order to promote students’ dialogic discussion of three literary texts. Additionally, this study drew on data collected from observations, classroom artifacts, field notes, and interviews to examine the particular nature of students’ literacy learning and the teacher’s role in that learning as students engaged in activities that were designed to facilitate their participation in dialogic discussions of literature. 1.1 SOCIOCULTURAL AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT Since the publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), researchers across academic disciplines have pointed to the implications of the “problem” of adolescent literacy for future educational, economic, and social opportunities. In response to these reports, some researchers have called for remediation of the sort that would prepare adolescents to become critical thinkers and logical writers to meet the educational and workplace demands of the 21 st century (Beaufort, 2009; Partnership for 21 st Century Skills, 2008), while other researchers have drawn attention to the critical thinking and logical composing abilities that adolescents already possess (Alvermann, 2009; Hull, 1993), but which are not recognized

4 within an autonomous model of literacy (Street, 1984) that perpetuates a monolithic definition of literacy as strictly the ability to read and write. By understanding literacy as an ideological practice (Street, 1984)—situated historically, socially, and culturally in multiple contexts both in school and outside of school, and realized through the local language and meaning-making practices that occur in these contexts—it is possible to imagine addressing the “problem” of adolescent literacy, not from a deficit perspective that presumes adolescents to lack the literacy skills of “competent” adults, but rather to consider the new and multiple literacies that adolescents already practice. These multiple literacies, or multiliteracies might be leveraged to support both new as well as traditional academic literacy practices that are needed to participate fully in today’s global world. In a recent report funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, Kamil et al. (2008) made five recommendations to improve adolescent literacy. Among the recommendations that pertained particularly to this project were the following: (a) “provide opportunities for extended discussion of text meaning and interpretation,” and (b) “increase student motivation and engagement in literacy learning” (p. 7). Indeed, an extensive body of research has identified both how and to what extent discussion-based instruction improves adolescents’ literacy learning, including how such discussions inform students’ learning of the disciplinary practices of English (Applebee, 1996), promote students’ performance on literacy tasks (Applebee et al., 2003), and improve reading comprehension (Nystrand, 2006). This research literature has also linked students’ motivation in literacy learning with their substantive engagement in dialogic discussions (Nystrand & Gamoran, 1991). Nystrand and Gamoran (1991) defined substantive engagement as “sustained commitment to and engagement

5 in the content of schooling, i.e., the problems and issues of academic study” (p. 262). Problematically, however, dialogic discussions of literature occur as infrequently as 15 seconds per class period in 9 th -grade English classrooms (Nystrand, 1997). Consequently, researchers are challenged to identify the classroom practices and conditions that foster teachers’ and students’ effective participation in dialogic discussions. This dissertation project takes up that challenge. 1.2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK In this theoretical frame I outline sociocultural and multimodal social semiotic perspectives on learning, ultimately linking these theories to argue that students’ talk and academic work originate in social practices and that these practices exist within a dialectical relationship with each other; students’ talk informs their academic work and students’ academic work informs their talk. I extend these central tenets in both sociocultural and multimodal social semiotic learning theories to hypothesize that dialogic discussion, as a particular way of talking in the classroom, and multimodality, as a particular way of working in the classroom, also relate to each other dialectically. Sociocultural learning theorists argue that all learning is mediated, or brought about through cultural tools of various sorts (Kozulin, 2003; Wertsch, 2007). Mediators in instructional settings include not only tangible human and symbolic tools such as teachers, students, texts, and maps, but also less obvious tools such as discussion, drama, text messaging, and dance. Two central concerns of sociocultural theory that inform this theoretical frame are the social origin of individuals’ learning and the consequential role of language in mediating all learning (Kozulin, 1998; Vygotsky, 1978, 1982, 1986). Given the range and diversity of social settings and

6 language practices that can be identified in any given classroom, sociocultural theory provides a powerful perspective on how learning may or may not be accomplished within specific contexts that have been shaped by singular social, cultural, and linguistic histories. Multimodal social semiotic theory (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2001) complements sociocultural theory by considering as pedagogically central the vast repertoires of meaning- making modes that teachers and students use in their everyday and classroom practices. By considering, for example, the linguistic as well as the gestural, musical, sculptural, and visual modes through which students may make and transform meaning, multimodal social semiotic theory provides a useful lens through which to study classroom interaction. In particular, multimodal social semiotic theory is “concerned with how human beings make meaning in the world through using and making different signs, always in interaction with someone” (Stein, 2008, p. 875). Thus, these two theoretical perspectives identify and center around two ideas that have profoundly influenced current views of teaching and learning: Vygotsky’s concept of semiotic mediation (Vygotsky, 1986), how meaning is realized, especially through the use of language; and the semiotic concept of transmediation (Siegel, 1995; Suhor, 1984), what Berghoff, Egawa, Harste, and Hoonan (2000) described as the recasting of meaning across symbol systems, which occurs when students interpret texts that originate in the linguistic sign system and recast that meaning into the visual system in the form of a painting, for example. I will provide a brief overview of each of these concepts before turning to the design of this dissertation study. 1.2.1 Mediation and academic literacy learning Vygotsky (1982) identified the concept of mediation as “the central fact about our psychology”

7 (p. 166). From a sociocultural perspective, semiotic mediation—the process by which meaning is realized primarily although not exclusively through language—is consequential to learning (Kozulin, 1998). In instructional settings, students’ everyday concepts learned through their experiences in the world are confronted by the academic concepts used by the teacher and the discipline to carry on the specialized ways of “knowing, thinking, and doing” (Applebee, 1996, p. 39) secondary English, for example. Students mediate their learning of academic concepts by engaging in semiotic activities that allow students to realize their own thinking. Students speak (and engage in other semiotic processes), for example, in order to act (Brooks & Donato, 1994) and that semiotic activity is relevant to and revelatory of students’ thinking (Frawley & Lantolf, 1984). Significantly, mediation changes across contexts and over time, and that change is consequential to students’ development. 1.2.2 Transmediation and academic literacy learning Transmediation—the translation of meanings from one semiotic system into another (Siegel, 1995)—provides the conceptual tool that I used in this study to link sociocultural and multimodal social semiotic theories of learning. Transmediating understandings across semiotic systems has been shown to expand students’ perspectives and extend the interpretive potential of literary texts (Zoss, 2009). As Whitin (2005) asserted in her study of young children’s use of sketches to interpret literature: “Simultaneously tapping the nonredundant potentials of talk and visual representation extends the generative and reflective power of transmediation” (p. 392). Although many studies have considered the nature of students’ multimodal composing (e.g., Coiro et al., 2008), few studies have examined how multimodal composing shapes academic literacy learning through close discourse analyses of interactions in classroom contexts

8 (Jewitt, 2008), and no study, to my knowledge, has examined how multimodality informs dialogic discussions in secondary English contexts. In a recent Standpoints article in Research in the Teaching of English Moje (2009) identified the types of research studies that will be able to shed light on the relationship between multimodality and literacy learning: “In sum, comparative and experimental studies could help to pinpoint the source of affordances or challenges presented by multimodal texts or multiple media, while concomitant qualitative analyses could identify the nature of affordances and challenges present in each” (p. 355). By manipulating the use of multimodal and single-mode, or unimodal texts in two classroom conditions and by including close qualitative discourse analyses of students’ engagement with multimodal texts, this dissertation study, responds to Moje’s (2009) call for “new research on new and multi-literacies” (p. 348). 1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS Given the promising but isolated research findings on dialogic discussions and multimodal activities in ELA classrooms, I have devised the following three research questions that hypothesize a dialectical relationship between dialogic discussion and multimodal activity: (a) Is the nature and quality of discussions distinct (and if so, how?) between a class in which students previously engage in a collaborative multimodal activity and one in which they previously engage in a collaborative unimodal activity? (b) What is the nature of the semiotic mediation and transmediation that takes place as groups of students undertake multimodal and unimodal activities? (c) How does semiotic mediation and transmediation shape discussion and literary interpretation? (see Table 1)

9 Table 1. Research Questions Research Question

Data Source

Analytic Tool

Participant Context

Is the nature and quality of discussions distinct (and if so, how?) between a class in which students previously engage in a collaborative multimodal activity and one in which they previously engage in a collaborative unimodal activity?

-- Whole class discussion videos and transcripts -- Field notes

Classroom Discourse Analysis

--Dialogic Engagement

-- All students in unimodal condition --All students in multimodal condition What is the nature of the semiotic mediation and transmediation that takes place as groups of students undertake multimodal and unimodal activities? -- Small group discussion audio files and transcripts --Focal student videos and transcripts --Field notes --Project work -- Interview transcripts

Classroom Di scourse Analysis

--Dialogic Engagement --Semiotic Mediation

-- Focal students in both conditions --Small groups in both conditions How does semiotic mediation and transmediation shape discussion and literary interpretation? -- Small group discussion audio files and transcripts --Focal student videos and transcripts --Whole class discussion videos and transcripts --Field notes --Project work --Interview transcripts Classroom Discourse Analysis

--Dialogic Engagement --Semiotic Mediation

-- Focal student s

--Small groups in both conditions --All students in both conditions

To answer the first research question, I compared two different sections of the same teacher’s secondary English course and conducted discourse analyses in both conditions by

10 examining the nature of whole class discussions of literature that were facilitated by unimodal instructional activities in one classroom condition and multimodal instructional activities in the other classroom condition. I compared the extent to which students and the teacher engaged in dialogic discussions during whole class literary discussions, as measured by a coding scheme that synthesized dialogic moves identified in the relevant research literature (see Appendix A), in the following two conditions: (a) multimodal mediation of discussion and (b) unimodal mediation of discussion. Multimodal mediation of discussion was characterized by students’ participation in activities that require the use of more than one semiotic, or sign system as students made meaning from a literary text. For example, students who compiled a soundtrack in order to analyze a literary character and warranted their song choices with a written description had to interpret the literary text in both musical and linguistic semiotic modes. Unimodal mediation of discussion, on the other hand, was characterized by students’ participation in single-mode activities only. Students who answered a series of interpretive questions to analyze a literary character, for example, did not have to venture outside of the linguistic mode in order to complete the activity. I collaborated with one secondary English teacher to selectively sample (Patton, 1990; Sipe, 2000) two different class sections that would likely engage in multimodal project work and literary discussions, designed both multimodal and unimodal classroom activities for the two separate classroom conditions, and guided the teacher in planning, implementing, and assessing dialogic discussions of literature. To answer the second research question that addresses the nature of the semiotic mediation and transmediation that could take place during students’ small group multimodal and unimodal activities, I analyzed student-led talk in small groups for evidence of (a) semiotic

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Abstract: Although researchers have identified the positive relationship between students' academic literacy learning and dialogic discussion--talk about texts in which students build on and transform each other's ideas--this pattern of discourse occurs rarely in most secondary English classrooms. Promising research on the varied multimodal literacies in which adolescents are engaged in their out-of-school lives suggests that these literacies may inform academic literacy practices such as dialogic discussions of literature, but little is known about how such literacies might be leveraged to make academic literacy instruction more effective. This dissertation study identified ways in which students' out-of-school and multimodal literacies could be leveraged to shape their participation in dialogic discussions of literature in one secondary English classroom. To that end, this study comprised an empirical investigation of students' participation in dialogic discussion after completing either collaborative multimodal or collaborative unimodal projects, and traced focal students' participation across small group and whole class discourse contexts to investigate whether and how student learning was facilitated through multimodality. Drawing on classroom discourse analysis and ethnographic data collection techniques, this comparative study of two sections of one 12 th -grade English course explored the centrality of semiotic mediation and transmediation as these processes supported students' participation in dialogic discussions. Findings support the use of collaborative multimodal instructional activities to facilitate students' internalization of dialogic discourse norms and scaffold students' participation in discussions across discourse contexts.