Research meeting, March 21st

The third research meeting in March will be organized by the Language and Superdiversity project. It takes place on Friday, March 21st at 12.15-1.45 in F205 (Fennicum).

Prof. Heather Lotherington (York University, Toronto) will present her work in English: Plurilingual, multimodal literacies at Joyce Public School: Progress and problems.

Everybody is Welcome!

Plurilingual, multimodal literacies at Joyce Public School: Progress and problems


The urban classroom in Canada is a historically-welcomed cultural remix. In the Toronto District School Board, minorities form a majority of the student population. But while Toronto has become a poster child for superdiversity, and the urban classroom has become a microcosm of the wider world, the underlying politics of the language and literacy curriculum in the province (and country) have remained grounded in the English-French national unity project, and in Modernist print-based norms.


I forged a partnership with an elementary school principal in 2002 to investigate how literacy was developing and could be developed in emergent literacy education, given rapid changes in technical communications media, and increasing urban superdiversity. The first year of observations indicated that multiliteracies research was not permeating teaching practices, so I approached the principal with a proposition: to rewrite a popular folk tale from the eyes of the children so that they became culturally invested coauthors of the story they were learning to read. Our experimental foray into rewriting Goldilocks led to a collaborative action research project to functionally merge theory and practice in the development of pedagogies for plurilingual and multimodal literacies. Over the course of a decade, we developed a learning community joining York University researchers and teachers at Joyce Public School in this pursuit.


The upshot of a decade of experimentation was a project-based approach to learning that merged school subjects into creative multi-focal projects, utilizing multiple channels of linguistic and cultural support, and providing a multimedia canvas on which to rewrite stories and selves. Collateral to our innovative pedagogical learning was an in-house professional development paradigm that worked to take professional development out of parachute workshops and into dialogic learning (Bakhtin,1975/1981); education away from Modernist siloes and into multi-focal projects; literacy from monocultural (though bilingual) paradigms and sentence grammar towards plurilingual, multimodal textual products; and learning, above the test as the end point to agentive and generative project designs. The projects engendered collaborative planning, superseding curricular aims, and joined children and teachers in cross-curricular learning (Lotherington, 2011; Lotherington, Paige, & Spencer, 2013).


I will showcase some of the children’s plurilingual textual products, and raise consequential issues arising from our successful grassroots research, principally:

  • How do we assess new textual products?
  • How do we change policy so others can follow in our footsteps?


Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). Discourse in the novel. (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans.). In M. Holquist (Ed.), The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M. M. Bakhtin (pp. 257-422). Austin: University of Texas Press. (Original work published 1975)

Lotherington, H. (2011). Pedagogy of multiliteracies: Rewriting Goldilocks. New York, N.Y: Routledge.

Lotherington, H., Paige, C., & Holland-Spencer, M. (2013). Using a professional learning community to support multimodal literacies. What works? Research into Practice. Toronto: Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat.  (monograph)