Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Understanding language and culture through multimodal text analysis

Dr Neil Johnson
Dr Neil Johnson (Team Leader for TESOL) will be giving a talk in the Languages Research Seminar series at 5pm on Tuesday November 22nd 2016 (Forster 301).  In the increasingly globalized and digital context of higher education, with concomitant pressure to internationalize through raised proficiency standards and greater intercultural understanding, the dominant skills-based, discreet approach to language teaching may not be optimally effective. In his presentation, entitled "Understanding language and culture through multimodal text analysis", Neil will describe the Literacy-based approach to language education that seeks to address these concerns. This approach was used to re-imagine a course for second year undergraduates at a small private university in Japan, and operationalizes both reading and writing as essentially similar processes of meaning making and design (New London Group, 1996). The course was re-structured so that learners are involved in iterative cycles of textual analysis, interpretation, and production as content shifts from the familiar texts of daily interaction to the texts and discourses of public and academic settings. A key feature of the course is the focus on intercultural and multimodal meaning. While multimodality has long been understood as a key concept in both education and new literacy research, how best to utilize this construct in foreign language education has yet to be fully understood. Having students explore what Stein (2009 p.26) describes as the “affordances and constraints of mode” for making meaning offers rich potential for developing understanding of the cultural orientations to the world that are presented in texts. Kress (2003) has argued that the different affordances of writing and image, between narrative and display, for example, produce very different takes on the world. Certain modes are used by sign makers to convey particular content in ways that other modes cannot. Considering issues of representation provides a way to understand text as socially situated and culturally shaped communication, as well as the emergent nature of meaning in language itself. In this session, Neil will share classroom examples from the course that exemplify this approach, focusing on a unit of work built around the concept of consumerism that demonstrates how a program can meaningfully connect inquiry into mode of representation with reading and writing pedagogy. He will also offer evidence from student work that multimodal textual analysis promotes development of textual, intercultural and linguistic awareness. It will be argued that this approach, even for students with relatively low levels of language proficiency, is important to foster the kinds of dispositions towards language, communication and culture that are necessary for these changed and changing times.

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SURE: Research from the University of Sunderland