Multiliteracies and the Teaching of English: Implications for Theory and Practice
Dr Urszula Clark, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Wolverampton, England.
This paper examines the literacy pedagogy proposed by the Multiliteracies Project in the context of the English classroom and its curriculum in both primary and secondary schools as it exists in England and Wales. It will argue that whilst it may be possible to practice such a broad and encompassing view of literacy in the primary classroom, it may not be so in the secondary one. Traditionally, primary school teachers teach one class all the time, making an interdisciplinary approach possible. In the secondary school with its subject-based curriculum, interdisciplinarity is much harder to achieve.
During the nineteen eighties in England, such an approach to literacy was undertaken in many schools called 'language across the curriculum'. One of the consequences of such an approach for the subject English was that either the English teacher became responsible for every aspect of pupils' literacy or, (as happened in primary schools) it featured in the curriculum in so far as it gave relevance to topic work (let's read a poem called 'The Tyger' because we're doing Africa'). The question here is how to ensure interdisplinarity without losing subject identity.
The paper goes on to consider whether and how changes in literacy pedagogy affect the content of the subject with which it is most closely associated, that of English. In particular, it considers how a subject which owes its existence to the reproduction of a standard, universal, national language and culture can be transformed into one where agency and variability become its key concepts in ways that are acceptable to national governments.