About the Project
In our rapidly evolving, globalizing world, the literacies required to absorb, share, transform and create knowledge are multiplying and diversifying. Increasingly, the social and economic welfare of a nation depends upon its citizens' ability to effectively navigate this complex range of literacies that constitute contemporary society. UNESCO recognizes literacy as a basic prerequisite to full participation in society:
"Literacy is about more than reading and writing - it is about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language and culture. Literacy - the use of written communication - finds its place in our lives alongside other ways of communicating. Indeed, literacy itself takes many forms: on paper, on the computer screen, on TV, on posters and signs. Those who use literacy take it for granted - but those who cannot use it are excluded from much communication in today's world. Indeed, it is the excluded who can best appreciate the notion of 'literacy as freedom'."
Western educational systems are faced with the dilemma of increasing the academic literacy attainment on which education systems currently focus while extending current conceptions of literacy beyond traditional print-based literacy to include multiple forms of literacy increasingly relevant to an Information Age society. As articulated by Street (2003) the challenge is "to move beyond these theoretical critiques and to develop positive proposals for interventions in teaching, curriculum, measurement criteria, and teacher education in both the formal and informal sectors, based upon these principles, their sternest test (will be) their practical applications to mainstream education." The Multiliteracy Project is a three-year Canadian research study exploring how literacy and pedagogy might be re-conceptualized to maximize educational development for all in an era of globalization and continuing technological change. From an analysis of critical case studies and a review of relevant frameworks for multiliteracies pedagogy, we move beyond simply theoretical critiques of traditional autonomous models of literacy and from praxis in an attempt to propose core principles to guide instruction and policy and curriculum development.
The Research Questions
The original research questions that guided our investigation encompass the range of issues that impact upon contempory literacy practices.
1. What conceptions of literacy are embedded the literacy practices that students pursue both in school and in out-of-school contexts? What are the relationships between print-based academic literacy taught in school and the variety of multiliteracies that have emerged in our technologically evolving, culturally diverse, globalized economy?
2. What are the characteristics of learning environments that have succeeded in engaging all students (normally-achieving and those at risk of school failure) in an expanded range of literacy practices, including imaginative and cognitively demanding integration of text-based and multimedia practices? To what extent do these expanded conceptions of literacy in educational practice result in approved attainment in traditional school-based literacy?
3. How can the development of optimal (multi)literacy learning environments be supported by large-scale assessment policies and practices? What role might portfolio assessment play in legitimating diverse literacy accomplishments and what options exist for integrating alternative assessments with province-wide assessment policies and practices?
4. What structures with respect to school leadership, teacher development, pre-service teacher education, community partnerships, and material resources need to be in place to facilitate implementation of innovative approaches to (multi)literacy development and school improvement?
However, throughout the investigation, we have never lost sight
New Frontiers School Board