MANAGING THE GAP: EXPLORING THE MULTIMODAL LITERACY INSTRUCTION OF A STUDENT WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES by Lisa Marie Chang B.Sc., Boston University, 2007 M.Ed., Boston College, 2009 A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Language and Literacy Education) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) October 2020 © Lisa Marie Chang, 2020 ii The following individuals certify that they have read, and recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for acceptance, the dissertation entitled: Managing the Gap: Exploring the Multimodal Literacy Instruction of a Student with Learning Disabilities submitted by Lisa Marie Chang in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Language and Literacy Education Examining Committee: Dr. Marlene Asselin, Associate Professor, Language and Literacy Education Supervisor Dr. Maureen Kendrick, Professor, Language and Literacy Education Supervisory Committee Member Dr. Marianne McTavish, Professor of Teaching, Language and Literacy Education Supervisory Committee Member Dr. Margaret Early, Associate Professor, Language and Literacy Education University Examiner Dr. Deborah Butler, Professor, Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education University Examiner Dr. Linda Laidlaw, Professor, Elementary Education External Examiner iii Abstract Students with learning disabilities (LD) are one of the largest categories of learners in North America (British Columbia [BC] Ministry of Education, 2017; Dudley-Marling & Gurn, 2012; Statistics Canada, 2008). Their literacy struggles are generally categorized as difficulties with print-based practices in reading, writing, and oral language skills (BC Ministry of Education, 2011, 2016a). However, the English Language Arts curriculum in BC considers meaning-making and communication to be multimodal—that is, the combination of print, visuals, audio, movies, bodily gestures, and other semiotic modes. Multimodal texts, in particular, are seen as resources that enhance learning and students are expected to compose texts using a variety of modes (BC Ministry of Education, 2016b, 2018; Kress, 1997, 2010). With these different approaches to literacy, this case study explores the multimodal meaning-making practices of a teacher and a focal student with LD in a Grade 4/5 classroom. Data was collected through observations and field notes, semi-structured interviews, and photo documentation of the teacher’s instruction and the student’s engagement with multimodal materials. The findings indicate that the teacher and the student had different expectations and perceptions of multimodal meaning-making practices. Although the teacher welcomed the focus on multimodality to help the student express his learning in a variety of ways, she encountered many barriers during her instruction. This resulted in turning to print-based activities in order to redirect the student’s focus. Conversely, the student’s practices were rooted in his interest in the design of his multimodal texts and he demonstrated strong proficiency using a variety of digital tools. Although the student’s exploration of semiotic modes was similar to his peers without LD, it was a challenge for the teacher to reposition iv the student as a “knower” of his own work (Hall, Burns, & Greene, 2013). This study raises questions about how the multimodal meaning-making practices of students with LD are perceived by teachers. The findings suggest there needs to be a continued effort to view students with LD as “designers of meaning” in order to challenge perceptions of lower literacy achievement (Anderson, Stewart, & Kachorsky, 2017). v Lay Summary This case study explores the literacy instruction of a student with learning disabilities (LD) in Grade 4/5 with a focus on the teacher’s use of a variety of resources, such as technology, digital texts, art, picture and chapter books, and hands-on building materials. The findings indicate that the teacher welcomed opportunities to experiment with different resources with the focal student, but experienced barriers in her instruction. Despite his struggles with print-based practices, the student demonstrated a strong interest in technology and was proficient using many devices and applications. However, the student’s challenges and the teacher’s perception of academic work affected their practices, interactions, and expectations for learning. Implications of this study suggests that teachers need professional development opportunities to better implement multimodality for students with LD and there needs to be continued effort to view students as designers of meaning. vi Preface This dissertation is the intellectual property of its author, Lisa Marie Chang. The research project was reviewed and approved by the University of British Columbia’s Research Ethics Board (certificate H17-02361), under the original title of “Managing the Gap: Exploring Multimodal Literacy Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties.” vii Table of Contents Abstract .................................................................................................................................. iii Lay Summary ........................................................................................................................... v Preface .................................................................................................................................... vi Table of Contents .................................................................................................................. vii List of Tables ........................................................................................................................ xiii List of Figures ...................................................................................................................... xiv Acknowledgements .............................................................................................................. xvi Dedication ........................................................................................................................... xviii Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study .................................................................................... 1 1.1 Background of the Research Problem ........................................................................... 1 1.2 Purpose of the Present Study ......................................................................................... 5 1.3 Research Questions and Data Collection ....................................................................... 6 1.4 Defining and Contextualizing Learning Disabilities ..................................................... 7 1.5 Significance ................................................................................................................. 10 1.6 Limitations ................................................................................................................... 12 1.7 Key Terminology for this Dissertation ........................................................................ 13 1.8 Chapter Summary and Overview of the Dissertation .................................................. 14 Chapter 2: Theoretical Framework and Literature Review ............................................. 17 2.1 Defining Literacy Practices through a Sociocultural Perspective ............................... 17 2.1.1 Social Semiotics ................................................................................................. 22 viii 2.1.2 Multimodality ..................................................................................................... 24 2.1.3 Multiliteracies Pedagogy .................................................................................... 29 2.2 Teachers’ Knowledge and Their Literate Identities .................................................... 32 2.3 Beyond Deficits: Defining Learning Disabilities ........................................................ 38 2.3.1 The Discourse About Disability in Schools ....................................................... 39 2.3.2 The Impact of Curricula ..................................................................................... 42 2.3.3 Literacy as an Assessment for Students with LD ............................................... 44 2.4 Literature Review of Classroom Literacy Practices .................................................... 45 2.4.1 Classroom Literacy Practices of Students with LD ............................................ 45 2.4.2 Multimodal Meaning-Making Practices as a Means of Inclusion ...................... 50 2.4.3 Barriers and Constraints of Technology ............................................................. 55 2.4.4 Teachers’ Perspectives About LD and Inclusion ................................................ 58 2.5 Chapter Summary ........................................................................................................ 59 Chapter 3: Research Methodology ...................................................................................... 61 3.1 Case Study as a Research Design ................................................................................ 61 3.2 Participants .................................................................................................................. 68 3.2.1 Participant Selection and Recruitment ................................................................ 68 3.2.2 Cate Frost ............................................................................................................ 70 3.2.3 Theo Darcy ......................................................................................................... 71 3.3 The School Setting ....................................................................................................... 74 3.4 Ethical Research Practice with Participants ................................................................ 76 3.5 Preparing for the Study: Volunteer Experience and Pilot Study ................................. 79 3.5.1 Volunteer Experience ......................................................................................... 79 ix 3.5.2 Pilot Study .......................................................................................................... 80 3.6 Data Collection Methods ............................................................................................. 82 3.6.1 Participant Observations ..................................................................................... 82 3.6.2 Semi-Structured Interviews and Informal Talks ................................................. 85 3.6.3 Photo Documentation ......................................................................................... 87 3.6.4 Recording Device ............................................................................................... 89 3.7 Data Analysis ............................................................................................................... 89 3.7.1 Abductive Analysis with a Theoretical Model ................................................... 92 3.7.2 Coding Interview Data ........................................................................................ 95 3.7.3 Coding Field Notes ............................................................................................. 98 3.7.4 Qualitative Content Analysis of Photographs .................................................. 101 126.96.36.199 Image Selection ...................................................................................... 102 188.8.131.52 Developing Categories for Coding ......................................................... 105 184.108.40.206 Coding the Photos ................................................................................... 106 220.127.116.11 Analyzing the Photos .............................................................................. 110 3.7.5 Memo Writing .................................................................................................. 111 3.8 Final Stage of Data Analysis ..................................................................................... 112 3.9 Evaluation of the Research as a Single Case Study ................................................... 115 3.9.1 Length of Observations and Substantial Engagement ...................................... 115 3.9.2 Member Checks and Triangulation of Data ...................................................... 116 3.9.3 Transferability .................................................................................................. 119 3.9.4 Reflexivity and Relationality ............................................................................ 119 3.10 Role of the Researcher in the Classroom and Reciprocity ...................................... 121 x 3.11 Chapter Summary .................................................................................................... 123 Chapter 4: Cate’s Classroom Literacy Practices .............................................................. 125 4.1 Meeting Theo’s Learning Needs with Multimodality ............................................... 126 4.2 Cate’s Pedagogical Knowledge and Perceptions about Multimodality ..................... 130 4.2.1 Cate’s Understanding of Multimodality ........................................................... 131 4.2.2 Literacy Instruction in Cate’s Classroom ......................................................... 136 4.3 Implementation of Multimodal Meaning-Making Practices ..................................... 140 4.3.1 Teaching with Multimodal Texts ..................................................................... 141 4.3.2 Building a Classroom Community ................................................................... 148 4.3.3 Experimenting with Different Modes ............................................................... 153 4.3.4 “Tightening the Feedback Loop” During Small-Group Instruction with Theo 159 4.3.5 Individualized Instruction for Theo .................................................................. 165 4.4 Barriers of Implementation: Technology as a Disruption ......................................... 169 4.4.1 Constraints of Using District Technological Resources ................................... 169 4.4.2 Lack of Options ................................................................................................ 171 4.4.3 Issues with Devices and Applications .............................................................. 173 4.4.4 “A Giant Disaster Zone” ................................................................................... 176 4.5 Chapter Summary ...................................................................................................... 177 Chapter 5: Theo’s Engagement with Multimodal Meaning-Making Practices ............. 183 5.1 Theo as a Learner ....................................................................................................... 185 5.2 Demonstrating “Communicative Competence” with Multimodal Texts in Print ...... 188 5.3 Meaning-Making Practices with Multimodal Texts Beyond Print ............................ 194 5.3.1 Difficulties with Sense-Making in Group Contexts ......................................... 195 xi 5.3.2 Developing Individual Competency with Multimodal Texts ........................... 200 5.4 Transmediation and Affordances with Creating Multimodal Texts .......................... 207 5.4.1 The Juxtaposition of Competence and Resistance ............................................ 208 5.4.2 Creative Freedom and Modal Affordances ....................................................... 215 5.4.3 Interpreting Theo’s Transmediative Practices .................................................. 223 5.4.4 Entering the Class Community with Multimodality ......................................... 226 5.5 Barriers to Productivity: Technology as a (Possible) Distraction ............................. 231 5.6 Chapter Summary ...................................................................................................... 236 Chapter 6: Discussion of Findings ..................................................................................... 241 6.1 Shifting Multimodal Meaning-Making Practices ...................................................... 242 6.1.1 An Ensemble of Modes .................................................................................... 242 6.1.2 Print First, Other Modes Second ...................................................................... 248 6.1.3 Developing the “Talk” around Multimodality .................................................. 252 6.2 The Framing of Disability ......................................................................................... 255 6.2.1 Cate’s Sociocultural Understandings about Disability ..................................... 256 6.2.2 Evaluating Transmediation ............................................................................... 259 6.3 Multimodality as Inclusive Education (with Resistance) .......................................... 267 6.4 The Barriers of Technology ....................................................................................... 276 6.5 Re/viewing the Theoretical Model of Classroom Literacy Practices ........................ 280 6.6 Chapter Summary ...................................................................................................... 282 Chapter 7: Implications for Teacher Education and Conclusion ................................... 286 7.1 Implications for Pre- and In-Service Teachers .......................................................... 286 7.2 Recommendations for Teacher Education and Training ........................................... 291 xii 7.3 Implications for Educational Policy and Literacy Curricula ..................................... 294 7.4 Suggestions for Additional Research ........................................................................ 297 7.5 Concluding Remarks ................................................................................................. 298 References ............................................................................................................................. 301 Appendices ........................................................................................................................... 320 Appendix A: Teacher Consent Form .............................................................................. 320 Appendix B: Parent Consent Form ................................................................................. 324 Appendix C: Student Assent Form ................................................................................. 328 Appendix D: Teacher and Focal Student Semi-Structured Interview Questions ........... 330 xiii List of Tables Table 1.1 Glossary of Terms .................................................................................................. 13 Table 3.1 Number of Photos Taken During the Study ........................................................... 87 Table 3.2 Examples of Codes, Categories, Sub-Themes, and Themes from Interview Data . 96 Table 3.3 Examples of Initial Codes for the April 16, 2018 Observation .............................. 99 Table 3.4 Examples of Categories from the Content Analysis of Photographs ................... 105 Table 3.5 Application of Rose's Site of Production on the Photographs .............................. 107 Table 3.6 Examples of Codes and Categories from the Qualitative Content Analysis of Photos .............................................................................................................................................. 110 Table 3.7 Examples of Codes, Categories, Sub-Themes, and Themes from the Final Analysis .............................................................................................................................................. 113 xiv List of Figures Figure 3.1 The case (the teacher and the focal student) and the unit of analysis (the multimodal events and practices) for this single case study. .................................................. 67 Figure 3.2 Example of a set of photos taken during an action sequence (Theo's work on FreshGrade) to mimic a video. ............................................................................................... 88 Figure 3.3 Stages of data analysis. ......................................................................................... 91 Figure 3.4 Model of teacher-student literacy practices during classroom learning. ............... 93 Figure 3.5 Cate's schedule on the board for May 8, 2018. ................................................... 104 Figure 4.1 A student using the Bloxels application on the iPad and Theo building a scene using the blocks and grid. ..................................................................................................... 134 Figure 4.2 The Daily 5 board updated with options for literacy activities. (“Novel Approach” refers to student book clubs.) ................................................................................................ 138 Figure 4.3 The quilt of identity tiles featured prominently in Cate’s classroom. ................. 154 Figure 4.4 Scholastic articles about Ai Weiwei’s art (top) and A Tribe Called Red and their music (bottom) displayed on the whiteboard. ...................................................................... 164 Figure 5.1 Cate’s written notes about The Jerry Cans’ music video during activist art. ...... 189 Figure 5.2 Cate verbally explaining the article about immigration and the canneries in BC while writing on the board. ................................................................................................... 189 Figure 5.3 Theo (right) listened to a podcast and seemed unsure of what to write as part of his notes (duotang of paper in front of him). ........................................................................ 198 Figure 5.4 Cate displayed the Ai Weiwei podcast with a photo of the “backpack art” in tribute to the lost students from the Sichuan earthquake. ..................................................... 200 Figure 5.5 Theo and Abby watching the simple-machines video together. ......................... 204 xv Figure 5.6 Theo logging into the Discovery Education Science Techbook. ........................ 204 Figure 5.7 Theo completing a matching activity in the Discovery. ...................................... 204 Figure 5.8 Theo’s revised written plan for his activist-art project. ...................................... 216 Figure 5.9 Theo showing his work on GarageBand. ............................................................ 217 Figure 5.10 Theo’s drawing during Cate’s read-aloud of Wonder. ...................................... 222 Figure 5.11 Theo arranging the backdrop of a scene in his cannery story on Toontastic. ... 222 Figure 5.12 Theo listening to the Discovery Education Science Techbook video about pulleys and writing a note on his plan. ................................................................................. 223 Figure 5.13 Theo’s second plan for his pulley. .................................................................... 225 Figure 5.14 Theo demonstrating how his pulley works. ...................................................... 225 Figure 5.15 Theo's post on EdModo. .................................................................................... 228 Figure 5.16 Example of Cate’s instructions for posting on FreshGrade. ............................. 235 Figure 5.17 Theo sitting in front of Cate’s directions for FreshGrade posts. ....................... 235 Figure 6.1 Model of Multiliteracies Pedagogy with the TPCK Framework and Golombek's Practical Knowledge. ............................................................................................................ 247 Figure 6.2 An example of a peer-assessment form for the Bloxels stories. ......................... 266 xvi Acknowledgements First and foremost, I want to thank the participants in my pilot and dissertation studies—Cate, Theo, and Sam. I am very grateful to Cate for opening up her classroom to me and letting me be a part of her community. I will always remember our collaboration with fondness, and I am very fortunate to have gained a friend. Although my time with Sam and Theo were short, they left a lasting impression on me. As Cate said during our final interview, we will remember Sam and Theo for a long, long time. I hope their stories and experiences will have an impact on teachers and their work. To my committee, thank you for your guidance and support for the past seven years. I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Marlene Asselin, for being the backbone of my doctoral program and encouraging me to “move it forward.” A special thank you to Drs. Maureen Kendrick and Marianne McTavish for their theoretical and practical insights to ensure I explore the complexities of my research. I continue to be inspired by your collective dedication to enhancing teachers’ work and children’s learning. I am very grateful to my examining committee for engaging so thoughtfully with my research work and providing so much insight that I will have ideas and talking points for years to come. To the colleagues I met along the way, thank you for the laughs, the shoulders to cry on, and the kind words. I am very grateful to the Department of Language and Literacy Education for introducing you all to me and for strengthening our friendships. I would like to specifically thank Chris Fernandez, Laura Teichert (and her family), and Kathie Shoemaker for reminding me to never despair. I also want to acknowledge the LLED 350/351 teaching team and teacher candidates I worked with for inspiring me to continue my research even when it seemed the most daunting. It was an honor to work with all of you. xvii I want to acknowledge my editors, Kate Loss and Caleb Lee for their sharp eyes and attention to detail as well as Ernesto Peña for his artful re-design of my theoretical model to make sure it was ready for “the world.” I am deeply grateful to my career advisor, Megan Chester, for making sure I never lost sight of my professional and personal development. Kate and Megan, thanks for talking me up when I was down and helping me grow. And finally, thank you to those who have accompanied me on this journey. xviii Dedication This dissertation is dedicated to my family and friends, who supported me, took care of me, and cheered me on. Words could never express how much you all mean to me. To one Mona Chang, I am forever grateful you are my mother. To Pedro Chang, who I know is always watching over us. Thanks, Dad. And to Toby, thanks for never eating my homework. Thank you all for believing in me—in-person and in my memories. 1 Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study 1.1 Background of the Research Problem In September 2016, the Ministry of Education in British Columbia mandated public schools to implement a new curriculum that shifted how literacy was understood and taught by teachers. The previous English Language Arts curriculum saw literacy as reading and viewing information from “various types of texts,” as well as writing and developing “students’ command of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and paragraphing” (BC Ministry of Education, 2006, p. 5). Despite acknowledging that students are exposed to a variety of texts in their daily lives that include pictures, sound, and movies, the previous curriculum clearly adopted a traditional view of literacy—as proficiency with alphabetic print. The newly revised curriculum now requires students to “gain a repertoire of communication skills, including the ability to interact, on a local and global level, with information from a variety of sources in multiple modes” (BC Ministry of Education, 2019, Rationale section, para. 4). In this context, modes include print, images, audio, video, animations, and gestures, all of which are used for meaning-making and communication (Kress, 1997). There is continued instruction about the forms, functions, and genres of texts, as well as literary elements and devices, but there is a stronger focus on developing higher-order literacy practices and knowledge, such as exchanging ideas and perspectives; engaging with oral, written, visual, and digital texts; and drawing from prior knowledge and experiences (BC Ministry of Education, 2016a). The Ministry notes that students’ engagement with a variety of modes and texts contributes to developing their social awareness and furthering their goals for life in and outside of the classroom. 2 These changes to the curriculum mean that literacy is now seen as inherently multimodal and cannot be simplified to a singular set of skills or a standardization of language. Consequently, literacy pedagogy is no longer centralized around the grammar of alphabetic print (Kress, 1997; The New London Group, 1996). Kress (1997) theorized that literacy is unstable, dynamic, and fluid and has to be a more elastic construct to account for the many ways people create and exchange meaning. Literacy is also a sensory experience, in which people’s interactions with their surroundings and with other people contribute to their use of semiotic tools and their understandings of the modes used in each context of communication (Kress, 2004; Vygotsky, 1978). These interactions mean that literacy is a not a set of skills (Street, 1984) but a social practice between people with shared cultures and histories as they engage with a collection of texts in their daily activities (Barton & Hamilton, 1998). Adding to this complex view of literacy is the ubiquity of technology in classrooms across North America. Technology plays a greater role in meaning-making and instruction for both students and teachers than in previous years, especially as technology is increasingly mobile (Adami & Kress, 2014; Gillen & Barton, 2010; McClanahan & Stojke, 2013). Meanwhile, teachers are also refining their literacy practices in response to their students’ technology use. Regardless of how teachers feel about using technology, they are still seen as responsible for designing learning activities that utilize technology effectively to meet the curricular expectations of literacy learning in the 21st century for diverse learning needs (Cviko, McKenney, & Voogt, 2014; Drewry, Cumming-Potvin, & Maor, 2019). And yet, nearly a decade later since the call for more research about teachers’ voices about 3 pedagogical practices, there is still a need for research about how teachers use technology to meet the needs of students with LD (Atanga, Jones, Krueger, & Lu, 2019). Despite these sweeping changes to the curriculum and to frameworks that guide literacy instruction, there are some students who are still identified by their difficulties with print—namely, students with learning disabilities (LD). The BC Ministry of Education (2016) notes that students with LD struggle with the following: “oral language (e.g., listening, speaking, understanding), reading (e.g., decoding, phonetic knowledge, word recognition, comprehension), and written language (e.g., spelling and written expression)” (p. 47). Although the revised curriculum sees print as one mode out of many, students with LD and their teachers are caught between two very different perceptions of literacy instruction and assessment – one for students with LD and one for students without. Learning disabilities in literacy have often been described as below-grade-level academic achievement with the print-based modalities (Bakken & Gaddy, 2014; BC Ministry of Education, 2016b). Furthermore, the literacy practices under scrutiny are the print-based literacies that are the most prevalent in schooling. The BC Ministry of Education (2011) adds that LD “are not detected before children start school. Many students with learning disabilities display no signs of difficulty, except when they attempt the specific academic tasks that challenge their particular area of cognitive-processing difficulty” (p. 7). Therefore, the indicators of LD are often based on the students’ ability to engage with academic content in formal schooling environments. Barton and Hamilton (1998) caution that, although literacy is seen as a social practice, literacy is also “patterned by social institutions and power relationships,” where some literacies are seen as more “dominant, visible, and influential than others” (p. 7). For students with LD, their difficulties with print continue to be one of the main focal points 4 about their learning, and this is reflected in much of the research about literacy pedagogy for students with LD, which often focuses on remediating skills such as phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, grammar, and spelling (Gillespie & Graham, 2014; McCulley, Katz, & Vaughn, 2014). With these contrasting views about literacy, additional research is needed to explore the multimodal meaning-making practices of teachers and students with LD to understand how teachers are working with these different literacy frameworks to meet the needs of their students. Simon, Campano, Broderick, and Pantoja (2012) suggest there needs to be further exploration of this disconnect between research and practice from practitioners “who conceptualize literacy from the locations of diverse classrooms and communities” (p. 5). As the revised curriculum calls for increased awareness of teaching with multimodal resources, it is important to understand how teachers mobilize multimodality in practice. Bazalgette and Buckingham (2013) note that definitions and understandings of multimodality are diverse, which can be confusing for teachers since curriculum documents and educational policies may oversimplify multimodality as the difference between print and non-print modes. Teachers have also experienced increased scrutiny for their use of technology as Naraian and Surabian (2014) suggest that teachers have only a “developing” knowledge of teaching with technology for students with LD. However, these claims of confusion, oversimplification, and inadequate knowledge of multimodality and classroom literacy practices need to be explored from the perspectives of teachers, who have complex ideologies, practices, attitudes, and beliefs about literacy and LD (Atanga et al., 2019; Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Harris, Mishra, & Koehler, 2009; Kataoka, Kraayenoord, & Elkins, 2004). 5 1.2 Purpose of the Present Study The purpose of this study was to explore how a Grade 4/5 teacher addressed the learning needs of a focal student with LD by documenting the teacher’s implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices and the student’s response to the instruction. It was important to explore the factors and influences that shaped teachers’ literacy instruction with students with LD “because teachers’ conceptualizations about disability, the nature of learning, and the purpose of teaching reading, writing, and communication result in teaching practices that can expand or contract the future quality of life of students” (Ruppar, Gaffney, & Dymond, 2015, p. 209). In my study, I understood multimodal meaning-making as part of classroom literacy practices. Classroom literacy practice are both observable and invisible practices (e.g., actions, attitudes, beliefs, and relationships), shaped by cultural and historical influences within a social group (Barton & Hamilton, 1998). I acknowledged that the teacher and the student in this study had shared literacy practices as well as very different ones as a result of their roles and positions in the classroom. The teacher-student dynamic means that the teacher generally has a stronger influence on the student’s literacy practices. For example, the teacher’s classroom literacy practices are often in the form of instruction (e.g., teacher-led activities, read-alouds, and conferences with students), as informed by curriculum documents and pedagogical knowledge (Lewis, 2001). Consequently, the student’s literacy practices are often in response to the teacher’s instruction. The goal of this study was to better understand how these different experiences and perspectives of multimodal meaning-making in a classroom environment were negotiated between the participants within a shared social space. In particular, there continues to be 6 tension about technology use as part of classroom literacy practice. Although technology is generally seen as beneficial for students with LD as it helps students to comprehend curricular content, enhances social participation and inclusion, and improves overall literacy learning (Kennedy & Deshler, 2010; Laidlaw & O’Mara, 2015; Naraian & Surabian, 2014), teachers and students encounter barriers when using technology as well, such as inadequate access to technology, unstable or unreliable devices, lack of time (Francom, 2020; Wachiera & Keengwe, 2011), and disruptions that affect students’ focus on reading texts (Savage, Nair, McBreen, & Wood, 2018). Exploring teachers’ and students’ perspectives on teaching and learning with technology during literacy activities is important because these experiences can inform how multimodality is taken up in the classroom and what aspects of multimodality are enacted as well as which ones are less understood or implemented by teachers. Although teachers’ beliefs, preferences, and knowledge about technology shape their instruction (Anstey & Bull, 2018), their experiences are rarely discussed even though they can contribute to a better understanding of how teachers conceptualize and integrate multimodality into their practice. Likewise, students’ experiences are also overlooked beyond the benefits of implementing multiple modes during instruction, and it is often assumed that students are adept users of technology (Hsin, Li, & Tsai, 2014). 1.3 Research Questions and Data Collection There are two guiding questions that frame this single case study: 1. What are the multimodal meaning-making practices the teacher implements during literacy instruction to meet the needs of the student with learning disabilities? 7 2. How does the student with learning disabilities engage with meaning-making practices during literacy instruction in the classroom? Every month, I interviewed the participants as well as documented their literacy practices and interactions with each other through observations, field notes, and photo documentation. A focus on a specific teacher-student pair allowed for deeper insights into how their classroom literacy practices were shaped by the contexts of schooling as much as they were by the teacher’s knowledge of theories and instructional practices. With the teacher, I sought to better understand the reasons behind the employment of certain instructional methods for the focal student as well as the teacher’s knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about literacy and LD. The data collection methods I used also helped me to examine and better understand the practices of the focal student during instructional activities. The inclusion of the focal student’s perspective was crucial to this study given that LD is one of the largest disability categories of students across North America (Dudley-Marling & Gurn, 2012). Within this large LD category are students with nuanced and complex experiences with literacy (Collins, 2011; Mock & Hildebrand, 2013), and the goal of this study was to further diversify and enrich current research beyond “able” and “disabled” literacy practices (Brodeur, 2020; Kliewer, Biklen, & Kasa-Hendrickson, 2006). 1.4 Defining and Contextualizing Learning Disabilities The BC Ministry of Education (2016) sees LD as a genetic or neurobiological impairment that affects students’ cognitive processes related to learning. They define LD as: A number of disorders that may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect 8 learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. (p. 47) The Ministry’s policy goes on to further specify that LD are considered to be impairments in “perceiving, thinking, remembering or learning” in “language processing, phonological processing, visual spatial processing, processing speed, memory and attention, and executive functions (e.g., planning and decision-making).” In addition to difficulties with oral language, reading, and written language skills, there are also social implications of LD. Students may struggle with “organizational skills, social perception, social interaction, and perspective taking” (p. 47). In general, LD is diagnosed in the absence of other disabilities that can explain lower academic achievement (Butler & Schnellert, 2015). Learning disabilities are one of the largest categorizations of students in the province of British Columbia. There were 17,908 students with LD in the 2016–2017 school year, which amounted to about 3.2% of the total public school (i.e., K–12) population of over 557,000 students (BC Ministry of Education, 2017). In comparison, the next largest categories of students with disabilities in the same school year are students with autism and students with physical disabilities with 8,459 and 8,293 students in their respective categories or about 1.5% of the student population in K-12 public schools. Between 2000-2019, the BC Teachers’ Federation (2019) reported a 26.3% increase in the number of students with LD, which implied a steady growth of students designated with LD over the past two decades. This increase also reflects the diversity of learning challenges within the LD designation and funding needs. Students with LD can have a wide range of difficulties in reading, writing, and mathematics and socioemotional challenges but are grouped together under a common category. Secondly, the shift away from special education resource teachers to general 9 education classrooms for a more inclusive learning environment has resulted in changes in funding models based on diagnosis and needs (BC Teachers’ Federation, 2019; Stegemann, 2016). BC’s prevalence of LD is on par with the national Canadian statistic, which was reported to be 2-3% (Statistics Canada, 2008). The national statistic for non-working-age children with LD who are younger than 15 years old has not been updated since 2008 (Dunn & Zwicker, 2017). However, it is important to note that it is difficult to obtain an accurate national prevalence rate because “the concept of LD is not uniformly defined across Canada” (D’Intino, 2017, p. 228) and some territories and provinces (the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec) do not mention LD in their ministerial documents (Stegemann, 2016). I acknowledge that LD as a term has negative connotations, especially when used with a traditionally marginalized population of students. The definitions of LD have varied across Canadian provinces, but the majority of definitions see the condition as students who have a “discrepancy between intelligence and achievement” (Kozey & Siegel, 2008, p. 162). In BC, students with LD are generally viewed as having “average or above average cognitive ability” (BC Ministry of Education, 2016b, p. 49), who struggle with academic tasks after repeated attempts, instructional interventions, and significant amounts of effort to complete the tasks. Although the language about LD has shifted from talking about intelligence to ability in BC’s policies (Kozey & Siegel, 2008), a close reading of the current special education manual indicates that there is still an expectation of what is perceived to be appropriate grade-level learning behavior as indicated in a battery of standardized assessments (BC Ministry of Education, 2016b). Adopting this stance about LD as a neurological impairment means that the definition leans on medical definitions of “deficits” 10 in cognitive processes (Trent, Artiles, & Englert, 1998, p. 278). I recognize that there are other models that do not draw as heavily from the medical community or from deficit theories; however, the definition of LD from a biomedical perspective is used consistently in the British Columbia’s educational policies as well as in the research literature. More importantly, this definition was also the most widely understood and accepted by the teacher and the parents of the focal student because of their experiences with the diagnosis and the referral process. The objective of this study is not to focus on the diagnosis itself but to better understand how a student with LD works with, through, and around challenges during literacy activities, which I view as a unique experience for the focal student that can inform further research about pedagogy and educational policy. 1.5 Significance The goal of this study was to contribute to a reframing of literacy for students with LD as well as to explore how the literacy practices of the teacher and the student can further inform practical understandings of multimodality. Research about students with LD and their multimodal meaning-making practices is emerging though it is still limited and lags behind research about the practices of students without disabilities. Moreover, the available research about students with LD does not necessarily frame their literacies as multimodal (Naraian & Surabian, 2014). At times, their multimodal meaning-making practices are seen as alternative means of communication because of their struggles with print (Dalton & Jocius, 2013). While these struggles are certainly present in schooling contexts, the literacies of students with LD also need to be reframed in ways that “are no longer assistive and compensatory but, instead, facilitative and natural” (Parr, 2012, p. 1427), especially as students with and without disabilities often share similar multimodal resources in the classroom (e.g., texts, 11 devices, applications, and tactile materials). Collins (2011) notes that it is important to investigate how certain modes can both enhance learning for students and exacerbate their issues. Rather than simply assuming that issues arise from a student with LD, a better understanding of how modality may limit a student’s participation in literacy activities can serve to further inform practice. This study also unpacked pedagogical knowledge from a teacher’s perspective in order to better understand how multimodal literacy practices were designed to meet the needs of the focal student. I addressed the teacher’s knowledge in this study because it was important to examine how different models of literacy as well as understandings of LD inform pedagogical decisions. If teachers are positioned as being responsible for designing learning activities, then it is equally important to generate a dialogue with them to better understand their thinking and rationale when working with students with LD. As there is a persistent gap in research about students with LD and multimodality, Connor, Gallagher, and Ferri (2011) note that: an alternative to trying to circumvent teachers (with so-called “teacher-proof” materials) would be to position teachers at the center of inquiry and knowledge about the research-to-practice gap. Yet, surprisingly few studies have attempted to study this gap from teachers’, and specifically special-education teachers’ perspectives. (p. 116) Addressing this gap was important in this study because there have been few changes made to the literacy curriculum for students with disabilities, including LD (Heydon & Iannacci, 2005). This is evident in the special education manual in BC, in which the latest version, from 2016, echoes a similar language to that in the previous version, from 2011, 12 which was only moderately changed from the version analyzed by Kozey and Siegel in 2008. Yet, teachers are expected to balance different instructional methods and multimodal materials to address the needs of students with LD. This study is significant in that the teacher participant voiced her thoughts about this balancing act during a time of substantial change within the school district—a relatable experience for many teachers who work with students with LD. 1.6 Limitations This case study investigated a teacher and a student in a Grade 4/5 classroom in a large city in British Columbia. As a single-case study with two participants, it was not possible to generalize the findings in this study to represent the experiences of larger populations of students with LD and their teachers in elementary classrooms. Although the findings were triangulated using multiple forms of data, the perspectives of the teacher and the focal student remain linked to their history and experiences in their school. This study took place in a school district in which the administration and funding committees paid special attention to investing in new and updated technology (e.g., robotics sets and newer, more robust models of old devices, respectively). I must also acknowledge that conducting this research in BC during the time frame of this study was another unique experience that makes it difficult to generalize for a larger population. As the school districts were in their second year with the new curriculum that saw literacy as multimodal, I recognize that there were many districts that still prioritized the mastery of print in their literacy programs. The time and length of this study were also limitations. Because of delays prior to entering the classroom, the proposed timeline of the data collection was shortened to three and a half months. I encountered difficulties entering the school because the principal was 13 not responding to my inquiries even though the teacher participant agreed to the study. Despite an extensive amount of time spent in the classroom, between 3–6 hours per observation for at least three visits each week, this abbreviated time frame reduced my ability to observe a wider range of literacy activities over the school terms that may have contributed to theory development. 1.7 Key Terminology for this Dissertation In this section, I introduce some of the key terminology that appear throughout this dissertation. During the different stages of preparing this dissertation, I encountered difficulty “pinning down” exactly how I wanted to define what I saw in the classroom and how I understood the participants’ literacy practices. Understanding and writing about multimodality was a particular challenge because of the “slippery terms” used to discuss meaning-making practices across different disciplines (Bateman, Wildfeuer, & Hiippala, 2017, p. 79). The most commonly used terms in this study are briefly defined here but I go into further detail in the next chapter in the theoretical framework and provide additional examples in subsequent chapters. Table 1.1 Glossary of Terms Term Definition Affordances The potentials and constraints of modes, which are defined by sociocultural contexts (Kress, 2010). Classroom literacy practices The patterns, rules, beliefs, and discourses about meaning-making processes that are governed by educational policy and implemented by schools, which affect how teachers and students construct meaning individually and collectively (Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Lewis, 2001). Multimodality is inherently part of classroom literacy practices. Learning disabilities (LD) This study draws from the terminology and definition used by the Ministry of Education (2016), which sees learning disabilities (LD) as a number of issues that affect the student’s ability to acquire, organize, retain, understand, or use verbal or nonverbal information. Students may 14 also struggle with “organizational skills, social perception, social interaction, and perspective taking” (p. 47). Literacy instruction In the context of this study, literacy instruction spans across the curriculum and content areas (e.g., social studies, science, math, etc.). It includes, but is not limited to, language arts instruction. Mode The semiotic material used to construct meaning, such as visuals, audio, and gestures (Kress, 1997). Multimodal literacy instruction (short form: multimodal instruction) The work of teachers to incorporate different tools (e.g., devices and applications) and modes (see above) into learning experiences for students. Derived from Stein’s (2008) research about multimodal pedagogies. Multimodal meaning-making practices The meaning-making processes by students with a variety of modes based on their perceptions of affordances, their choices, and their interests in expressing meaning (Kress, 1997). Multimodal texts Digital or non-digital forms of communication that combine multiple modes, such as picture books and websites (Bull & Anstey, 2019; Serafini, 2011). Print-based literacies Tasks or activities where alphabetic print is the primary focus, such as reading and writing (Purcell-Gates, Jacobson, & Degener, 2004). Teachers’ knowledge Understandings about pedagogy that are shaped by individual beliefs, contexts of schooling, professional development, and experiences in the classroom (Golombek, 1998). 1.8 Chapter Summary and Overview of the Dissertation In this chapter, I discussed the different models of literacy being implemented for students with LD and their teachers. With the revised public-school curriculum in 2016, a stronger effort has been made toward viewing literacy as multimodal—that is, using more than one semiotic material (e.g., print, images, audio, etc.) for meaning-making and communication. The previous curriculum focused heavily on literacy as developing and mastering rules of language, such as with spelling and grammar, which viewed literacy development as a set of skills. However, students with LD are still identified through their difficulties with print-based literacies, particularly their struggles with reading, writing, and 15 oral language. This means that teachers in BC are constantly balancing these different understandings of literacy as they work to meet the needs of students with LD. The purpose of this study was to explore the classroom literacy practices of a Grade 4/5 teacher and a focal student with LD to better understand how learning needs are met through multimodal materials. I collected data using semi-structured interviews, observations and field notes, and photo documentation. During my time in the classroom, I documented observable practices in action as well as talked to the participants about their practices. As noted earlier in the chapter, I recognize that literacy practices are both visible and invisible behaviors and patterns of thought; this required different forms of data collection to triangulate my findings. It is important to reiterate that I understand the term “learning disabilities” is fraught with negative connotations, especially as there are efforts to move away from deficit theories that see disability as impairment. I understand the life-long significance of labeling children as having disabilities and how that may impact their learning as well as their sense of self. However, I use “learning disabilities” in this study because it is widely used in the research literature that aligns with my field of interest. The teacher and the parent I spoke to for this study also both recognized the term because of their experiences with the focal student, helping to avoid confusion about what was considered to be LD or not. Again, my goal with this study was not to highlight the focal student’s difficulties and, thus, contribute to the discussion of LD as a struggle with literacy, but to enrich the conversation about the student’s unique and nuanced practices as a student from a traditionally marginalized community of learners. With LD being one of the largest categories of learners in BC (almost 18,000 students in K-12 public schools during the 2016-2017 school year), it is important to 16 think of students with LD as diverse and their literacy practices as complex rather than label them as “disabled.” This dissertation is comprised of seven chapters. In Chapter 2, I discuss the theoretical framework that informs this study, which draws from sociocultural theories about literacy and disability, and provide a literature review of research about multimodality as part of classroom practice, teachers’ knowledge, and literacy in LD contexts. Chapter 3 is an overview of my research methodology, data collection methods, and data analysis methods, as well as information about my participants, the setting of the school, and the steps I took to prepare for this study. My findings are presented in Chapters 4 and 5. In Chapter 4, I discuss the participant teacher’s classroom literacy practices; how these practices addressed the needs of the focal student; and the values, reasoning, and beliefs that informed the instruction. In Chapter 5, I detail how the student responded to the observed instruction during a variety of activities. Finally, I present my findings in Chapter 6 and conclude my dissertation in Chapter 7 with implications for educators. 17 Chapter 2: Theoretical Framework and Literature Review In this chapter, I discuss my theoretical framework and how I derived it to frame my understanding of literacy. I also review the literature about the instruction and classroom literacy practices of students with learning disabilities (LD). The first section focuses on the sociocultural perspectives that inform this study. I draw from social semiotics, multimodality, and multiliteracies to describe my conceptualization of literacy, especially with regard to defining literacy practices in the classroom. The second section is an overview of how LD are shaped by societal beliefs about ability and deficit, particularly in light of the privileging of print-based skills in general understandings about literacy and school curricula. Teachers’ knowledge about literacy practices, multimodality, and LD are discussed in the second section as they relate to designing learning experiences, instruction, and assessment. The final section of this chapter is a literature review of research about teachers’ and students’ classroom literacy practices. 2.1 Defining Literacy Practices through a Sociocultural Perspective Literacy, in the context of this study, is seen as dependent on cultural and community contexts. There are norms and patterns to how literacy is used within each community, which are deeply rooted in values, relationships, attitudes, feelings, and social relationships (Lemley, Hart, & King, 2019; Perry, 2012). In this theoretical perspective, literacy often falls into a binary as “literacy is something that one either has or does not have; people are either literate or illiterate,” especially with written texts (Perry, 2012, p. 53). Street (1984) proposed two models of literacy: the autonomous model and the ideological model. The autonomous model centers on a decontextualized skills-based model of literacy, in which literacy can be mastered in any context through instruction. The ideological model sees literacy as 18 entrenched in cultural practices, historical contexts, and power dynamics in society (Street, 2003). Within these multiple forms of literacy, there are practices that are considered to be socially dominant and accepted and there are practices that are marginalized and valued less by society. Barton and Hamilton (1998) pointed out that literacy practices change as societies and communities evolve. I differentiate literacy from communication by seeing the former as deeply entrenched in cultural practices and beliefs and the latter as a form of information transmission that often requires mastery of language as a “socially skilled performance” (Tugtekin & Koc, 2019, p. 6). Using Ruppar’s (2017) study as an example, she noted that the teachers in her study recognized that literacy was difficult to define for students with disabilities because it is deeply rooted in the ability to read and write. However, the teachers believed that conceptualizations of literacy for students with disabilities needed to be expanded to include helping students develop a sense of freedom and a better quality of life, navigating their daily lives successfully, and continued growth in their personal journeys. The goal was to help students strengthen their communication skills for basic tasks (e.g., writing a note, following directions, and finding employment), but the teachers believed that literacy for students with disabilities should be grounded in respect for their students’ lives and choices and not necessarily in their communicative abilities. Although there is an increasing awareness of multiple literacies, the autonomous model proposed by Street (1984) continues to persist today as noted in the curriculum documents and in the definition of LD adopted by the province of British Columbia (Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, 2017). As I mentioned in Chapter 1, LD are usually observable or identifiable when students experience difficulties with academic tasks, 19 which include reading, writing and spelling, and oral language skills (BC Ministry of Education, 2016b). This view of literacy for students with LD implies that literacy is a set of decontextualized skills that the students lack and as such, their literacies are seen as marginalized unless they gain grade-level appropriate competence in reading, writing, and other print-based literacies. I do not discount literacy as reading, writing, and oral language abilities, but I acknowledge that model of literacy is linked to societal perceptions and values about schooling and literacy. Definitions of literacy that stem from a print-based model are laced with notions about learning and schooling (Street, 2003), which vary according to the individual (e.g., educators, parents, students, policy-makers, and curriculum developers), but have wide-ranging implications for the students’ learning and their lives (Siegel & Valtierra, 2017). As such, I draw from a collection of sociocultural perspectives that view literacy as social practice with semiotic systems between people and how they “use literacy in their everyday lives” (Perry, 2012, p. 51) in a particular environment, space, and culture. I think of literacy as multiple semiotic systems because people do not engage in only print in their academic and daily lives. There are multiple modes (e.g., audio, video, and gestures) that contribute to our uses and understanding of print (Kress, 1997). Each of these modes requires different ways of viewing and communicating meaning, especially with the increased use of technology and media (Kress, 2010). In this study, I explored the implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices of a Grade 4/5 teacher with a focal student with LD. Within the localized context of the classroom, I defined literacy practices as individual and group activities as patterned by institutionalized beliefs about schooling and curricula (Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Lewis, 2001). The meaning-making experiences that I mentioned in the previous paragraph were 20 further influenced by dynamics and social relationships within the school and classroom environments. Patterns, rules, and beliefs about literacy and pedagogy change over time and alter how literacy practices are enacted in the classroom. For example, the advent of technology leading to its use in learning activities has changed teachers’ and students’ behaviors with communication, meaning-making, and language from traditional print and paper practices (Walsh, 2008). There are diverse practices occurring simultaneously between students, teachers, and other people in the classroom setting. Classroom literacy practices are also informed by social dynamics and power relations (Barton & Hamilton, 1998); as such, some practices (e.g., reading printed text and writing) are considered to be more “dominant, visible, and influential than others” (Barton & Hamilton, 1998, p. 8). For example, in her yearlong study of students between 10 and 12 years of age, Lewis (2001) reported examples of literacy practices in the classroom, including teacher-led read-alouds and literature discussions, independent reading time, and peer-led discussion groups. Each of these activities seemed like a traditional form of instruction and activity in the classroom; however, she noted that each activity was also laden with values about literacy and required students to navigate their positions as readers and learners, which were generally positioned as unequal to that of their teachers. A sociocultural perspective of children’s literacy practices recognizes the importance of social interaction between children and the ways they internalize and re-enact behaviors as part of their social and language development (Vygotsky, 1978). Part of this development is seen in how children navigate the different semiotic representations of language learned from others in their social groups and in their environment. Vygotsky (1978) noted that “the use of signs leads humans to a specific structure of behavior that breaks away from biological 21 development and creates new forms of a culturally-based psychological process” (p. 40). Children use signs and tools to transform “the material world and conditions in which [they] live, as well as using signs to mediate and regulate [their] relationships with each other and with [themselves] in social activities” (Green & Kostogriz, 2003, p. 108). In classroom environments, these relationships with other children and with teachers are key to learning and constructing shared experiences that “provide the opportunity for synthesizing several influences into the learner’s novel modes of understanding and participation” (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p. 192). Vygotsky (1984) argued that children’s relationships are important because children can learn skills from more knowledgeable peers and adults in what he coined the Zone of Proximal Development. He identified the Zone of Proximal Development as “the distance between [the] actual development level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (p. 86). In terms of language and literacy development, the Zone of Proximal Development plays a key role in understanding the development of communicative practices. All learners use a variety of semiotic signs and tools, but their uses and meanings are generally taught by those in their social circles before being applied to different contexts that enrich learning and mental development (Lantolf, Poehner, & Swain, 2018; Vygotsky, 1978). It is important to consider the changing contexts of children’s learning because there are societal assumptions of schooling that prevail in today’s classrooms. Vygotsky (1978) writes that “if someone learns to do any single thing well, [s]he will also be able to do other entirely unrelated things well as a result of some secret connection” (p. 82). Learning was considered, in the past, to be solely within the individual rather than impacted by social 22 relationships. Earlier notions about literacy followed a similar thought as it was seen as a set of decontextualized skills that “one either has or does not have” (Perry, 2012, p. 53). Students with LD are typically viewed as not having certain academic skills with language needed for success in schools. Consequently, the focus on print-centric practices overlooks other literacy practices that students with LD engage in and are somewhat hidden from teachers (Rowsell & Kendrick, 2013). 2.1.1 Social Semiotics The primary focus of social semiotics is to study meaning-making in specific social contexts. Social semiotics stem from Halliday’s (2003) work, which positioned language in two ways: from a linguistic and a rules-based lens, or from a semiotic perspective in which language is a resource for facilitating relationships and communication, and for representing ideas and “thinking about the world” (p. 21). Language is purposeful and has its function because people needed ways to “communicate and enact reality” in their communities (Halliday, 2003). Kress (2010) added to the conversation by underscoring the importance of the underlying social aspects of meaning-making because people are “the origin[s] and the generator[s] of meaning” (p. 56). Although language is often viewed as the primary form of communication, linguistic rules cannot necessarily account for the way people use language to assign meaning to their experiences (Halliday, 1993). Instead, there is an interplay between functions and relationships with language. That is, people from a very young age develop ways to organize their purposes for language, which changes throughout their childhoods and adult lives (Halliday, 2003). Kress (2010) pointed out that social semiotics moves away from linguistically bound rules to focus on the sign-making process, which is shaped by social histories and culturally available resources (Kress, 2010). He argued that 23 linguistics cannot account “for the whole domain of meaning” (Kress, as cited in Andersen, Boeriss, Maagerø, & Tønnessen, 2015, p. 72). In a social semiotics approach, it is also important to consider the identity of the sign-maker and the intent of the sign as well as the resources used within the environment (Kress, 2010). Signs also have the potential to produce multiple meanings as well as be indicators of power between people communicating the signs. Classroom environments are enclaves full of sign-makers, but teachers’ and students’ purposes for their sign-making are often mediated by the expectations of schooling. Consequently, students are often guided by teachers to fulfill these expectations of schooling (Kress, 2003). This study paired social semiotics with sociocultural perspectives in order to account for both the contexts of meaning-making and the role of texts in classroom literacy practices. In contrast to social semiotics, sociocultural perspectives are grounded in the interactions and relationships between people to make meaning as well as the “social and cultural contexts in which literacy is practiced” (Perry, 2012, p. 51). Although Vygotsky (1978) wrote of the shared uses of materials and texts for meaning-making, he placed more emphasis on how social interactions and language-learning lead to cognitive development. There is less focus on the production of a text than on the shared cultural understandings of the text itself. On the other hand, social semiotics places an intense focus on how texts are created, produced, and interpreted by exploring their features (e.g., point of view and narration, visual representations, and format/layout of the text). Texts in this context are not limited to print-based documents, but include film, audio, advertisements, and other formats in which meaning is disseminated. Chandler (2017) noted that semiotics is the codification of meaning in texts and the interpretation of these codes relies on a person’s prior knowledge and 24 experiences as well as how the individual connects one text to another. However, Rose (2016) pointed out that a shortcoming of social semiotics is that some versions of semiology “remain uninterested” (p. 145) in how each individual interprets texts differently. Indeed, Chandler (2017) concluded that codes cannot account for everything in human culture and communication: social behavior and textual practices cannot simply be reduced to the operation of semiotic codes. They are not autonomous determinants of human action—historical changes in social and textual patterns attest to the importance of human agency and textual “transgression.” (p. 220–221) Given that social semiotics and sociocultural perspectives of literacy emphasize two different facets of literacy, a combination, rather than separation, of the two is needed to understand literacy as social practices with texts. Literacy is a social phenomenon within specific cultural contexts, and what people do with these texts is nuanced and complex (Perry, 2012). People’s use of texts and the shared understanding of a variety of signs produce texts that speak to the interests of the sign-makers. This is vital as students with LD are engaging with print-centric texts even though they are seen as struggling with them, and they are also using other modes to facilitate understanding and communicate their learning. 2.1.2 Multimodality In this section, I summarize the concept of multimodality and the contemporary understanding of literacy practices. Multimodality is the application of social semiotics and is particularly useful in understanding literacy practices in the classroom. As mentioned earlier, social semiotics seeks to shift the viewing of language from a stable system of rules and structure, to the way it is constantly remade by individuals to fit specific communicative 25 contexts. However, language learning continues to be a major focus for students with LD as instruction is generally grounded in reading, writing, and oral language skills rather than in how students are combining modes to express their learning and their understanding of the world around them (Brigham & Bakken, 2013; Shanahan, 2013). This study focused heavily on the concept of modal affordances in classroom learning environments. Kress (2010) defined affordances as “different potentials for making meaning” that “have a fundamental effect on the choice(s) of mode in specific instances of communication” (p. 80). Affordances are determined through repeated use of a mode over long periods of time. For example, Kress (1997) suggested that there are times when print is not the main feature of communication because some texts may require the reader to interpret symbols, shapes, and images that require an understanding of visual observation and analysis. Print would then be regarded as constraining rather than having potential for meaning-making in such contexts because the information is communicated more effectively using visual modes. Collins (2011) added that each mode also enhances or limits social participation because of individual understandings and familiarity with the modal affordances. Each mode is dependent on interpretations that are based on social patterns and cultural understandings; as such, Kress (1997) argued that the combination of modes, known as signs, are similar to metaphors because people innately draw connections between signs by comparing them to something of similar meaning to them. Signs are transformative in nature and are always made new again because interpretations vary depending on the contexts in which they are created. Media, or the way signs are disseminated (e.g., print and digital means), also have their own affordances. People generally have an awareness of how they want to 26 communicate meaning that fits their interests. In classroom learning environments, technology (e.g., mobile devices and content-creation applications) is a medium increasingly used by students and teachers. Adami and Kress (2010) posited that smartphones, which are a fairly recent addition to classroom teaching, have “material and social possibilities and constraints” (p. 185). Technology plays a key role in transforming modes and signs as people select semiotic materials that best represent their intent and often reuse and remix them in a variety of contexts, especially with the fast-pace sharing of multimodal messages (Adami & Kress, 2014). With the different devices available to teachers and students, identifying the affordances of hardware includes taking note of screen resolution, size, portability, and ease of use of a hand-held device during the sign-making process (Adami & Kress, 2010). It is important that children are seen as language-makers with their in-school and out-of-school literacy practices (Kress, 1997). Children’s engagement with language involves complex mental interpretations of signs they have been exposed to early in their lives and throughout childhood. The application of these interpretations can be seen as a remixing of language in a way that represents their social lives and their experiences. Children’s interests, motivations, and experiences play a large role in how they use and combine modes to create signs. Kress (1997) defined interests as how children see the world through interactions with the people in their lives (e.g., in their living and schooling environments) and through their experiences in various social contexts. Their motivations arise from their interests, and they draw on these motivations to choose how to represent their understandings in their sign-making. Kress (1997) pointed out that, although children are inundated by signs early in their lives, they do not seem overwhelmed by the “multifaceted communicational world” (p. 3) but, instead, transform their understandings during their play. Technology, for example, 27 plays a key role in how meaning between people is transformed and shared through messages (Kress, 2003); it is seen as a resource for making signs and as the medium for how meaning is communicated. Children with access to technology can more fluently share their interests and experiences through multimodal communication as well as engage in higher levels of interactivity where they build new understandings from a variety of information resources (Kress, 2003). Despite these technological affordances, however, Kress (1997) cautioned that children’s interests can be overlooked due to adult dominance in their lives and at school. In educational contexts, this may be a particular issue. As Collins (2013) observed, children are seen as learners that are dependent on how teachers recognize their identities and abilities, which affects how learning activities are designed and implemented for students and what resources are used in student learning. Of particular interest in this study is the notion of transmediation by the student during literacy activities. Mills (2011) defined transmediation as “the connections between [signs] for making sense of human experience” (p. 56) and these connections are fundamental for all meaning making. In a longitudinal study about 8-year old children and the transmediation of multimodal texts, Mills (2011) identified three key principles: 1. Transmediation is not just the reproduction of knowledge, but a process for how knowledge was created and transformed; 2. This process is a “continual adaptation of intentions for representing knowledge in response to the possibilities and limitations of sign-making systems, including the affordances of digital systems” (p. 58); and 3. With the ubiquity of mobile devices and digital multimodal texts, transmediation is considered to be central to the process of communicating in 28 digital formats because “it involves translating semiotic content via the discrete sign-making systems inherent in software interfaces” (p. 58). More importantly, transmediation is an approximation of meaning because discrete sign systems often do not have a direct translation (e.g., dance movements and music have different ways of conveying meaning) (Kress, 2010). In the context of this study, texts are also seen as multimodal, which are defined as digital or non-digital forms of communication that combine “two or more semiotic systems,” such as alphabetic print, linguistic, visual, audio, spatial, or gestural modes (Bull & Anstey, 2019, p. 320). Like frameworks of literacy, what is considered a text has also been redefined over time. Perry (2012) pointed out that genres and textual features play a significant role in how people shape their literacy practices, especially in regards to written print. Groups and communities share social practices around certain texts (e.g., the Bible and other religious doctrines) that also evoke political and historical discussions (e.g., the Bible compared to the Quran). As such, literacy as a social practice is about the positioning of print as being central to society (Perry, 2012). From a teaching perspective, texts often serve as source material to extend content knowledge (Wissinger & Ciullo, 2018), to learn the linguistics of language (Spear-Swerling, 2018), and to enhance engagement during instruction (Shaw, 2013). The definition of text can be highly contested when discussing literacy practices for students with LD, who often struggle with print but may do well with other modes. Although print-based literature is still very much considered text in this study, it is also important to view texts, even ones with only print, as multimodal (Adami & Kress, 2014). Students are making sense of print-based texts through other modes such as font choices and sizes, color, and layouts. Technology has also expanded the definition of text as it can be screen-based as well and 29 may not necessarily be alphabetic print at all but media such as music, videos, and animations (Kress, 2010). Students are increasingly seen as creators or composers of multimodal texts (Dalton & Jocius, 2013) as they experiment with layouts, colors, drawings, fonts, sound effects, and written words during their design process (Hull & Nelson, 2005; Pantaleo, 2013; Shanahan, 2013). Dalton and Jocius (2013) suggests seeing students with literacy challenges as multimodal composers to help shift the view of them being struggling students. 2.1.3 Multiliteracies Pedagogy Multiliteracies and multimodality are often intertwined as both explore the different uses of modes and texts in a variety of contexts from daily living to classroom learning. Walsh (2017) differentiated the two theoretical approaches by explaining that multiliteracies has been adopted as a pedagogical approach to address diversity and inequity in society while multimodality examines “the way we use signs or symbols to communicate” (p. 22). Although there are a variety of understandings of multiliteracies (Walsh, 2017), this study understands multiliteracies as a form of pedagogy for teachers to adapt to changing patterns of communication which are most frequently associated with the increased use of technology for teaching and learning (The New London Group [NLG], 1996). New forms of texts are created with changing patterns of communication as well as the increasing linguistic and cultural diversity in the classrooms. Multiliteracies pedagogy considers the importance of recognizing students’ identities and their fluency with various forms of communication as they embark on goals for their future lives. The NLG (1996) proposed viewing multiliteracies pedagogy as addressing the skill sets and competencies needed to design meaning and participate in these numerous channels of communication. With this focus on 30 participation and diversity, the NLG (1996) asked, “How do we ensure that differences of culture, language, and gender are not barriers to educational success?” (p. 61). This study also extends this question to encompass differences of ability as well as notions and beliefs about disability as students with LD also use these multiple communicative channels as part of their literacy practices. In the manifesto written by The NLG, linguistic and cultural diversity are mostly seen as assets. However, I question what does a multiliteracies pedagogy look like for students whose language abilities are not seen as beneficial to their learning. The language skills of students with LD, for example, are typically seen as challenges or struggles because of their difficulties with reading and writing rather than “diverse.” There are four components of multiliteracies pedagogy: situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformed practice. Each of these components contributes to the framing of students’ communicative practices as forms of literacy that are conducive to their learning and that also respect their diverse backgrounds. Like the concept of signs in multimodality, meaning in a multiliteracies perspective is always redesigned by the individual. As such, the four components serve as a way for educators to shift away from traditional notions of curriculum that standardize literacy as alphabetical, and reframe literacy instruction as multilingual, multimodal, cross-cultural, and socially equitable (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009). A large part of literacy instruction relies on educators to discover how their students design and make meaning out of their resources (Kress, 2003) as well as how they themselves address the ever-changing nature of literacy and texts in order for students to successfully adapt to and participate in literacy practices beyond the classroom (Anstey & Bull, 2018). Hull and Nelson (2005) added that 31 the process of design in our digital age draws widely on multimodal materials and resources [and,] in thinking of multimodal texts, it is obvious how useful the notion of design can become . . . a way to conceptualize the suddenly increased array of choices about semiotic features that an author confronts. (p. 229) As such, multiliteracies pedagogy calls for teachers to explore the affordances of modes with their students and to consider the student’s intent and choices in communication in hopes of leveraging this knowledge toward more critical communication in and out of the schooling context. A classroom environment that is conducive to multiliteracies is one that honors and respects each student’s identity, agency, and background as part of building a community of learners. This is known as situated practice, which recognizes that each student has a sense of mastery over their individual literacy practices and meaning-making, and that each student is developing different skills at their own pace (The NLG, 1996). In what Kress (1997) called a “multifaceted communicational world” (p. 3), situated practice acknowledges that students have their own nuanced and complex ways of dealing with a steady stream of information from their social lives and that they are working actively to apply that information in their learning. Because of this nod toward diverse ways of thinking and knowing as part of literacy practices, Anstey and Bull (2018) pointed out that literacy is not neutral, and teachers bring in their own practices, understandings, preferences, and discourses when implementing multiliteracies pedagogy, especially in overt instruction. Drawing on the Vygotskian (1978) principle that students learn from other people in their social environments, the NLG (1996) defined overt instruction as “active interventions on the part of the teacher and other experts to scaffold learning activities” (p. 86). Overt instruction is about guiding students within a 32 community of learners to collaborate and reflect on their experiences. Through a constant exchange of ideas and information, students develop an awareness and understanding of their communicative patterns and decisions during literacy activities. Students then refine their thinking through the subsequent components of multiliteracies called critical framing and transformed practice. These two components of multiliteracies call for teachers to guide students toward critical reflection about the social dynamics represented in their texts and to consider how they can transform their understanding to a wider, sometimes global, context (The NLG, 1996). 2.2 Teachers’ Knowledge and Their Literate Identities Because a part of this study examined how the teacher participant understood classroom literacy practices and enacted pedagogy for the focal student with LD, it is important to look at how the literature frames such nuanced and highly personal forms of knowledge. Stein (2000) posited that teachers engage in multimodal pedagogies and classroom literacy practices in which a variety of modes “shape the production of curriculum knowledge and pedagogic practices that lead to learning. The relationship between modes and users is dynamic and transforming: modes change users and users change modes” (p. 122). Although teachers may take different stances with regard to literacy and their professional knowledge, Stein suggested that the classroom is inherently a multimodal space, and teachers make decisions about their classroom literacy practices, such as the arrangement of the desks and the selection of instructional materials as well as how to communicate complex concepts and ideas to the students. However, pedagogical decisions are impacted by teachers’ own beliefs, values, and professional training. Golombek (1998) identified four categories of teachers’ personal practical knowledge in her research: knowledge of self, 33 knowledge of subject matter, knowledge of instruction, and knowledge of context. She suggested that teachers’ identities as people, their disciplinary knowledge from experience and from their professional training, and their engagement with “institutional and sociopolitical setting[s] along with the time[s], place[s], and actors within the setting[s]” are all re-constructed and enacted in classroom teaching (p. 452). More importantly, teachers’ knowledge has its own set of consequences in the classroom because how teachers reflect and enact their knowledge in teaching impacts how students learn. Golombek’s (1998) framework of teachers’ knowledge also facilitates the understanding of how teachers shape their classroom literacy practices. As noted earlier in this chapter, classroom literacy practices consist of both observable events, like reading and writing, as well as intangible influences, such as social dynamics between teachers and students, values and beliefs about literacy, and institutional traditions around pedagogy. Subsequently, teachers’ knowledge is also influenced by teachers’ literate identities. Gennrich and Janks (2013) pointed out that teachers’ literate identities are constantly in flux as they encounter changes in policy, curriculum, and pedagogical approaches. Teachers are also expected to be experts in literacy practices in the classroom by modeling effective reading and writing methods, utilizing technology for multimodal compositions, meeting the needs of diverse learners through various pedagogical methods, and being well-versed in literature and materials to engage students during instructional activities. However, these classroom literacy practices come with their own set of tensions that are constantly negotiated by the teachers. For example, the two English-as-a-Second-Language teachers in Golombek’s (1998) study explicitly stated the need to balance various teaching approaches in literacy to meet the diverse linguistic abilities of their students. In response to their 34 supervisors’ expectations of teaching specific English-language-learning skills (e.g., reading, speaking, and listening), the teachers noted the strain of balancing the expectations with their own personal beliefs of teaching. One teacher observed a fear of hypercorrecting the students while another teacher felt the strategies that were suggested to her by her supervisor were not useful in resolving the gap between the students’ learning and her own teaching methods. Golombek (1998) concluded that teachers’ knowledge not only consisted of pedagogical strategies but also forms of “self-exploration to discern how emotions and moral beliefs influence their sense-making processes” (p. 462). As models of literacy continue to evolve over time, teachers’ knowledge and their identities also continue shifting. McDougall (2009) observed that “broadening views of literacy have made the responsibility for teaching literacy even more complex, nuanced, and potentially more hazardous” (p. 680). In her study of Australian teachers, teachers aligned themselves with specific identities with the increased use of technology alongside print-based instruction—identities such as “traditionalism (preference for traditional teaching priorities), survival (need for self-preservation), and futures (recognition of changing priorities)” (McDougall, 2009, p. 683). These distinct stances on literacy instruction indicate that teachers feel the need to defend their positions and face ongoing frustration when their values are challenged and criticized. A common theme for all of the teachers in McDougall’s study was the constant questioning of their own knowledge in practice as they tried to mediate their beliefs about literacy with the changing practices of the students. Noting that teachers’ literate identities continue to change over time due to the ubiquity of technology, Cviko, McKenney, and Voogt (2014) proposed an updated model about what teachers do with literacy curricula and instruction. The influx of devices in the 35 classroom means that teachers are increasingly expected to become designers of instruction with technology, which manifests in multiple ways depending on teachers’ beliefs and styles of instruction. Teachers can be “executors” of instruction, in which they implement ready-made curriculum and assume little involvement in the design process; they can also take on the role of “re-designer,” in which the current curriculum is modified with other teachers to better suit pedagogical needs as well as to enhance facilitation of the curriculum in the classroom; and, finally, teachers can become more active “co-designers” of the curriculum by creating new activities with the existing materials as well as self-made materials (Cviko, McKenney, & Voogt, 2014, pp. 69–70). However, the inclusion of technology means that effective instruction is tied to judgements of how well teachers are using the technology (Archer et al., 2014), which puts further strain and tension on the professional work and knowledge of teachers. Because this study also explored a teacher’s understanding of multimodality and multiliteracies as part of her classroom literacy practices, I also combined multiliteracies with teachers’ knowledge using Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) framework for pedagogical and content knowledge. These two frameworks are important to use together because multiliteracies mostly highlights observable instructional practices—that is, what teachers do and say—more so than the intangible influences that impact their teaching, which were highlighted by Mishra and Koehler (2006) and Golombek (1998). As multiliteracies pedagogy emphasizes the importance of teaching using technology, media, and multimodal texts, the way that the four components of multiliteracies pedagogy (i.e., situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformed practice) are taken up by teachers is also reliant on “what teachers need to know in order to appropriately 36 incorporate technology into their teaching” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1,018). It is important to unpack what teachers know and do with technology because they interact with diverse learners who use a variety of devices and digital platforms. Mishra and Koehler propose a framework that merges teachers’ pedagogical and content knowledge when looking at technology use in the classroom. Teachers are increasingly working with technical knowledge such as knowing how a device works, what applications fit what purposes, how to troubleshoot issues, and how to best deliver content to students. More importantly, knowledge about technology is no longer fixed because technology is not “standardized and relatively stable” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1,023). Instead, teachers must have some sense of flexibility to adapt to technology that is ever changing and constantly being updated. Theoretical perspectives on teachers’ knowledge, like the one presented by Mishra and Koehler, need to include technical knowledge as part of the content and pedagogy rather than keeping them as separate entities. The various forms of knowledge are interrelated when teachers implement multiliteracies pedagogy. Each of the four components of multiliteracies pedagogy is aligned with the different forms of knowledge that are needed for successful implementation of instruction with technology. For example, situated practice focuses on meaningful engagement with peers and teachers in a collaborative community. Mishra and Koehler (2006) defined pedagogical knowledge as relating to “all issues of student learning” (p. 1026) and noted that a “teacher with deep pedagogical knowledge understands how students construct knowledge, acquire skills, and develop habits of mind and positive dispositions toward learning” (p. 1027). Forming a community with and between students is very much dependent on having pedagogical knowledge; however, I also propose that teachers need to have content 37 knowledge as well. How a teacher develops instruction is dependent on what they know about the content. Beyond situated practice, the rest of the components of multiliteracies pedagogy are much more involved as teachers need to draw from more complex knowledge about technology. Forming a classroom community around learning does not necessarily require technology knowledge, but scaffolding learning and developing design processes during overt instruction might involve devices and applications. The merging of the different forms of knowledge (pedagogical content knowledge, technological pedagogical knowledge, technological content knowledge, and technological pedagogical content knowledge) shape the processes that teachers need to know as they shift from one component of multiliteracies to another. These are more subjective and flexible because they are dependent on the activity and the teachers’ instructional design. However, Mishra and Koehler (2006) noted that the final form of knowledge, technological pedagogical content knowledge, is emerging and requires “a thoughtful interweaving of all three key sources of knowledge” (p. 1029). I consider technological pedagogical content knowledge as a part of transformed practice. The NLG (1996) suggested that teachers need to reformulate instruction from assessments of learning within the classroom community. This requires teachers to draw from all three forms of knowledge together, reflect on the instructional design, reassess learning, and then reconfigure their practices. Lesser discussed by Mishra and Koehler is the teacher’s knowledge of self and knowledge of context as proposed by Golombek (1998), but they are important in the implementation of multiliteracies pedagogy. Knowledge of self is positioned in the center because I think it is important to emphasize that how teachers perceive themselves and their abilities are at the core of pedagogy. If a teacher is not as comfortable with technology, odds 38 are those feelings would lead to some tension during instruction. Knowledge of context is missing from Mishra and Koehler’s model because they saw the different forms of knowledge as individually distinct and somewhat unaffected by larger social influences. Golombek’s (1998) knowledge of context focused on the teacher’s awareness of institutionalized beliefs, school process, and educational policy. All of these factors shape the different knowledges that Mishra and Koehler proposed. Using technology as an example again, if a school district does not invest in devices or digital content, the multiliteracies pedagogy would look very different. As such, knowledge and instructional practices are also shaped by the context of the school and the classroom. 2.3 Beyond Deficits: Defining Learning Disabilities In Chapter 1, I discussed the general definition of LD as students’ difficulties with processing and communicating language, and how their struggles are often more visible during academic tasks, such as reading and writing texts. This definition remains fairly unchallenged and even broadly accepted and implemented by schools in BC. However, standardized definitions of LD as cognitive impairments overlook other theoretical perspectives that shape our collective perceptions about LD. In this section, I discuss my own understanding about LD through a sociocultural lens. I believe that students’ struggle with language needs to be understood through an analysis of the shared social, cultural, and historical beliefs about normality and disability (Cousin, Diaz, Flores, & Hernandez, 1995). I shift away from seeing LD as solely existing within the student’s mind to discussing how a student’s social environment and interactions can further perpetuate the existence of literacy difficulties (Iannacci, 2018). In the following sections, I discuss how perceptions of LD are 39 manifested through discourse about disability, curriculum development, and assessment of literacy skills. 2.3.1 The Discourse About Disability in Schools The writing about disability in general tends to fall into two distinct categories—one from a biological and medical (biomedical) perspective and one from a social-model perspective. The biomedical perspective of LD is perhaps the most widely accepted by the general public; in it, disability is seen as an illness or an impairment in the body and the mind (Thomas, 2004). The issue with adopting the biomedical perspective as the dominant viewpoint of disability is that there are assumptions about normality and abnormality or, in other words, behavior that deviates from what is considered to be of the norm (Bøttcher & Dammeyer, 2012). However, what is considered to be normal academic behavior is constantly in flux even though such behaviors are grounded in traditional notions about literacy; as Gallagher, Connor, and Ferri (2014) wrote: Identification of these disability categories requires the drawing of arbitrary lines and distinctions. Moreover, none of these categories could exist absent a cultural context that values literacy, that elevates certain markers of “smartness” over others, and that stipulates expectations for personal deportment. (p. 1,124) In order to understand the arbitrary lines drawn in schooling contexts between students with LD and students without LD, a sociocultural lens can be used to highlight how an environment of learning can contribute to disability being more overt. A large part of children’s socialization involves schooling, which is often where their disabilities are identified and highlighted. Historically, this focus on difference as deviation from what is perceived to be normal learning resulted in disability being viewed as a lack of competence 40 or a deficit rather than as the possession of a range of knowledge and skills. Vygotsky (1993) asserted that there is an assumption of normal behavior and learning in schools that does not align with the developmental differences in children with disabilities and that this disconnect also impacts a child’s psychological growth. This perspective continues to exist in schooling as students with LD are mostly identified through their struggles with academic tasks and content. LD are considered to be an invisible disability (Gunderson & Siegel, 2001; Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, 2017) that is usually detected after schooling begins (BC Ministry of Education, 2016b). Dudley-Marling (2004) argued that LD often manifest during schooling because there is a need to assess and categorize children as types of learners, and “the evaluation of student performance [is] based largely on assessing differential rates of learning—with the underlying assumption that school achievement distributes more or less normally” (p. 484). Indeed, Mercieca and Mercieca (2010) supported this point by suggesting that disability cannot exist without society upholding certain beliefs, understandings, stereotypes, and even myths about cognitive and physical differences. Perceptions about disability can also lead to ability profiling of students who are seemingly consistently underachieving in their academic tasks. Collins (2013) defined ability profiling as an act that continues to associate children’s disabilities with deficiency in learning. However, students’ socioeconomic status, their family structure, their ethnicity, and their gender can contribute to perceptions of them as “less capable, less intelligent, [and] less talented” (Collins, 2013, p. xiii) when compared to their peers. Consequently, disability cannot be looked at solely from a biomedical perspective because “the dynamics of low school achievement” (Collins, 2013, p. 2) do not rest solely on cognitive development but also on how other social influences and perceptions affect understandings of disability. For 41 example, despite being proven a myth, male students are still seen as more likely to have reading disabilities than female students. Siegel and Smythe (2005) argued that much of the research about gender differences and reading often occur because the studies utilize definitions of reading disabilities from multiple sources, which lead to skewed results without the proper context. This issue reflects Artiles’ (1998) argument that disability needs to be looked at in “the-individual-in-action-within-special-contexts” (p. 35), not solely in terms of the student her/himself. Although alternative ways of viewing LD and other disabilities are crucial to reconceptualizing differences, biomedical models cannot be ignored in favor of other models. Anastasiou and Kauffman (2011) argued that the social model of disability combines multiple conditions (e.g., physical disability, sensory disabilities, autism, and emotional and behavioral disorders) together when each condition clearly requires different types of services and treatments. Proponents of the social model often advocate for seeing disability as a difference much like race, socioeconomic status, gender, and sexuality—the underlying thread of these differences being oppression brought on by dominant discourses in society about normal appearances and behaviors (Anastasiou & Kauffman, 2012). However, Anastasiou and Kaufmann argued that there is a danger in viewing disability as a cultural difference because disability and diversity can be conflated, and the learning needs of people with disabilities may not be addressed properly. More importantly, the social model does not particularly help to address the overrepresentation of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in special-education classrooms. Artiles (1998) wrote that it is important to acknowledge that “human difference has been seen as problematic in our society” (p. 33) in order to explain the discrimination, prejudice, and racism that are steeped 42 in society. A blending of these differences in the social model thus overlooks cases where students do not have a disability but are labeled as such because of ability profiling. Kauffman, Anastasiou, and Maag (2017) concluded that “a neutralization of disability would lead to no positive changes in education and public policy domains” (p. 147) because it is simply impossible to live in a society where every difference is considered normal. Because both the biomedical model and the social model tend to take on binaries of disability, I argue that a sociocultural perspective can help to bridge some of the gaps in understanding how different viewpoints within a specific context inform each other and impact students with LD and their teachers. 2.3.2 The Impact of Curricula With literacy being historically viewed as reading and writing (Kress, 1997; Street, 1984), LD have been associated with a lack of competency in these traditional forms of print literacy. In particular, curriculum documents have reinforced the notion of literacy as tied to students’ reading, writing, and spelling, which Green and Kostogriz (2003) viewed as contributing to “our structured incapacity to see multiple reasons for poor performance and literacy learning difficulties” (p. 107). Iannacci (2018) noted that there is sparse attention paid to curricula for students with disabilities, which means that literacy pedagogy and special-education support can remain “unchallenged” (p. 9). Few changes to curricula also perpetuate the cycle of pathologizing children as disabled early in their schooling, a designation which can have far-reaching implications (Heydon & Iannacci, 2008). Literacy instruction for students with LD is thus reduced to remediating isolated skills. Some examples of remediation include teaching reading with a focus on specific skills such as phonemic and phonological awareness, vocabulary word building, and identifying text 43 structures (Boardman, Argüelles, Vaughn, Hughes, & Klingner, 2005; Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001; McCulley et al., 2013; Wyse & Goswami, 2008). Remediation of literacy skills is important, but may also overwhelm the students’ other literacy practices that are not print-centric. Similarly, suggestions by the BC Ministry of Education (2011) also provided an overview of mostly print-based activities to improve vocabulary development, comprehension, and writing skills. As mentioned earlier, this model of instruction aligns with Street’s (1984) view of an autonomous model of literacy in which literacy is seen as a skill set that relies heavily on the cognitive aptitude to learn to read and write print. While these forms of instruction and remediation are certainly necessary for students with LD, they also tend to highlight a fraction of the students’ overall literacy practices. Mock and Hildenbrand (2013) observed that a “lack of understanding of multiple modes of literacy and responses that do not mirror traditional literacy models and typical developmental milestones” (p. 116) contribute to segregation of students with disabilities from literacy-rich classroom experiences, and lower expectations for their literacy development. This results in a possible “absence of opportunities to encounter activities that foster literacy” (Kliewer et al., 2006, p. 172) and a reduction in the participation of students in learning activities (Bøttcher & Dammeyer, 2012) as many teachers still see literacy as “ability focused” (Siegel & Valtierra, 2017, p. 95) for students with disabilities—as a competency rather than as a form of meaning-making unique to the student (Kress, 1997). Green and Kostogriz (2003) argued that the literacies of students with LD need to be reframed under a New Literacy Studies framework in order to foster a “more productive, socially-inclusive way of thinking about classrooms, learning, and teaching” (p. 102). However, as conceptualizations of literacy and disability are changing, it is important to address “what counts as literacy as well as what 44 counts as (in)competence” (Green & Kostogriz, 2003, p. 106) because literacy education is often laden with specific rules and notions of “standardized norms.” As school districts invest in new devices and platforms (e.g., applications, software, and learning management systems), it is important to consider how these forms of technology can exacerbate student difficulties rather than improve literacy learning. 2.3.3 Literacy as an Assessment for Students with LD Models of literacy for students with LD that lean heavily on print-based literacies have profound implications for assessment. Heydon and Iannacci (2008) observed that literacy instruction and assessment are organized by curriculum expectations of what students should be able to do at a certain age and grade level, according to developmental norms. As such, some assessment practices starting from early childhood serve as possible perceptions of literacy disability. Students are assessed regularly for language aptitude, which includes phonemic awareness, vocabulary knowledge, and comprehension strategies (Heydon & Iannacci, 2008). If literacy is seen as linguistically based and structured with rules, then reading, writing, and oral language skills can be assessed for possible indicators of cognitive language difference because these skills are quantifiable in some way (Brigham & Bakken, 2013). Heydon and Iannacci (2008) argued that such assessment practices of literacy reinforce deficit perspectives of students who do not meet curricular expectations. In the context of this study, assessments were seen as a social practice, much like my understanding of literacy. All assessments are laden in social, cultural, and historical values “emanating from the dominant culture as to what constitutes evidence of ‘intelligence’ and what constitutes valid realization of ‘educational knowledge’” (Broadfoot, 2002, p. 105). Broadfoot (2002) noted that assessments allow people to pass judgements on knowledge and 45 expertise, which, in a classroom setting, also translates to ability and skills. A student who knows how to read and write demonstrates the ability to engage with academic print literacies in a way that is valued and deemed as learning at an appropriate grade-level for their age. For students with LD, these assessments reinforce their identities as learners who fall outside of the norm, which reinforces certain assumptions and stereotypes about their literacy learning. 2.4 Literature Review of Classroom Literacy Practices This review of literature summarizes the research about classroom literacy practices of teachers and of students with LD. The literature discusses multimodal meaning-making practices in disability contexts, which includes research about print-based practices and a variety of semiotic materials. I begin this literature review by highlighting the pedagogical approaches that teachers implement in the classroom for students with diverse learning needs. Although the focus is on instruction for students with LD, I also talk about practices for students with other disabilities who experience literacy challenges. In the second section, I address the emerging trend of positioning multimodal meaning-making practices as a means for student inclusion and participation. With the use of technology increasing in literacy instruction, I also discuss the barriers and constraints that teachers and students encounter in the third section. Finally, I conclude this section with the changing teaching beliefs about literacy as well as summarize the literature on how teachers conceptualize LD and how their understandings impact instruction. 2.4.1 Classroom Literacy Practices of Students with LD The classroom literacy practices of students with LD are diverse as they are shaped by the students’ own interests and creativity and also influenced by adults in their lives. 46 Collins (2011, 2013) suggested that the way students understand their practices, the modes they use, the artifacts they create, and, subsequently, how they talk about their practices are all part of their learning experiences, which are situated in specific contexts. Moreover, there is a range of practices occurring simultaneously as students engage with multimodal texts and materials—practices which include engaging with design, interpreting texts for meaning, connecting to background knowledge, and interacting with teachers’ direct instruction (Pantaleo, 2013; Ryan, Scott, & Walsh, 2010). However, despite an acknowledgement of the diverse practices of students with LD in academic research, their literacy practices in the classroom are inevitably shaped by teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy and best practices for students with specific learning needs (Brodeur, 2020). As noted in the theoretical framework and in the review of the extant literature, students with LD are typically viewed as having deficits in their learning and in their literacy practices, resulting in instruction that is heavily based in remedial reading, writing, and oral language skills (Mason & Graham, 2008; McCulley et al., 2013). Students are generally referred to early intervention programs to address their difficulties with phonics, letter recognition, spelling patterns, verbal memory, and semantic organization—to name a few underlying language processes—as, there, students will be provided with strategies to enhance their skill sets and overcome their challenges (Steele, 2004). However, there needs to be some movement towards instruction that focuses on multiple modes as many of these literacy interventions for students with LD focus on print-based practices. Elkins (2002) wrote that conventional teaching practices do not always address the needs of students with LD. It is necessary, then, to explore the experiences of students with LD to better understand their struggles and inform practice as well as promote inclusivity that is learner centered (Naraian, 2019). 47 Although students with LD are rarely ever dissociated from their difficulties with print, teachers have implemented a wide range of multimodal activities to bridge the gap in learning. Much of the literature about multimodal meaning-making practices and students with LD focuses on students’ ability to express their understanding in multimodal compositions (i.e., writing with visuals, creating digital stories, and presenting information orally) as part of their learning with print-based literacies. In a study by Collins (2011) of a Grade 2 student named Christopher, who was considered at-risk for being seen as having a deficit in his learning, Collins noted that Christopher was consistently opting out of activities that involved oral and print forms of literacy. However, when presented with an opportunity to express himself using art, Christopher quickly responded by telling the teacher and Collins that he was an artist. He was soon given the responsibility of being a set designer for a play the class was working on, which redirected his formerly “off-task” (Collins, 2011, p. 415) behavior (i.e., of refusing to participate in literacy activities) and gave him an outlet to express his creativity. Multimodal compositions are increasingly associated with the use of technology as well. In schooling, the use of technology for students with LD is not a new practice. Historically, students with LD have used assistive technologies during literacy activities—for example, text-to-speech software, digital texts, word processors, spell checkers, as well as graphic organizers and composition planning software (Courtad & Bouck, 2013)—with the idea that these forms of technology help students communicate better despite their difficulties with print. More importantly, the ever-growing number of content-creation applications for students allows students to combine modes and media with relative ease (Smith, 2017). In her example of a middle-school classroom, Stein (2000) presented a project 48 in which students built competency in visual narratives without sound or dialogue. The principal and English teacher of the school facilitated a variety of “stimulus activities” (Stein, 2000, p. 126) in which students and the teacher analyzed icons, perspective, sound and music, camera angles, and color that attracted viewers’ attention. The teacher participant in this study arranged for students to work in groups and noted that the collaborative work around the films generated interest and sparked insightful conversations about storytelling, personal narratives, and emotions, as well as constant reflections about the film-making process. In this study, it was clear that print was not the primary mode in the project; however, the analysis of the visual and audio modes between the teacher and the students led to discussions about critical issues that enhanced oral language skills. For students with writing challenges, multimodal compositions have been seen as interventions to ameliorate students’ difficulties with print. In her study about three male students (aged 11 to 12) in special-education placements, Faux (2005) found that digital platforms that allowed the students to make collages, insert photos, and create videos helped students to create a “portfolio of individual achievements” (p. 171). Equipped with a rubric created by the teacher, the three students had to consider design elements, such as font styles, color, and size, as well as connect images to text, sound, speech, and video. The checklist and the digital platforms ensured that the students were able to freely design their multimodal compositions while keeping their teacher’s expectations in mind. Although this project was seen as an intervention, two of the three students noted it was difficult for them not to revert back to print as the primary mode for their study. Faux observed that students made use of the tools within the software to improve their writing, such as using the spell checker, the dictionary, and the speech-to-text function, even though the assignment itself was not 49 grounded in written text alone. Current research about multimodal compositions continues to focus on how students move from one modality to another, especially with technology, and how students are developing their identities and relationships throughout their design process (Blaine, 2017). Schneider, King, Kozdras, and Welsh (2020) noted that students are increasingly exposed to multimodal texts online with questionable authenticity, especially on social media. The challenge that teachers face is teaching to the composition of multimodal texts that enforce critical media literacy while also addressing textual design and meaning. Students not only have to know how to create the multimodal texts, but they also need to comprehend other texts outside the classroom that address “real-world and digital situations (e.g., fake news, trolling, cyberbullying)” (Schneider et al., 2020, p. 3). As multimodal texts become shorter in the form of images (e.g., memes and gifs), students are creating texts with less printed text and relying on the visual to communicate social meaning. However, teachers are not necessarily designing instruction that draws from these more contemporary, and at times problematic, texts to teach multimodal compositions. From a teaching perspective, technology has been noted as beneficial to pedagogy, especially in addressing the diverse needs of students. Teachers have limited time with their students and, during such a busy time, they need to consider the number of students in their class, the space(s) available for students to work and collaborate in, as well as the amount of instructional time allocated for each activity. Mobility, productivity, flexibility, and accessibility are important qualities to consider when designing activities for students with LD (Bruce et al., 2013). Mobile devices, like iPads and other tablets, are increasingly associated with meeting these needs. For one, they are seen as more cost effective than computer systems, including laptops, and, secondly, they are more portable, which allows 50 teachers and students freedom to move within a classroom while still targeting learning needs and objectives (Burke & Hughes, 2017). In a study about iPad use by teachers, Draper Rodríguez, Strnadová, and Cumming (2013) noted that teachers enjoyed using iPads during their instruction because the iPads “enhanced the students’ learning opportunities in the areas of communication, access, engagement, and independence” (p. 246). The authors also argued that students could more easily collaborate on projects. Moreover, because of the mobility, teachers and students were less inclined to use designated computer labs in the schools that moved students away from the resources they normally had access to in the classroom (Burke & Hughes, 2017). For teachers, technology afforded them productivity and an opportunity to build upon their professional knowledge. Teachers reported that tablets and other devices increased their efficacy, especially devices that allowed them to save or store resources, which allowed for faster access and easier sharing with students using other devices (Atanga et al., 2019; Churchill, Fox, & King, 2012). 2.4.2 Multimodal Meaning-Making Practices as a Means of Inclusion One of the major shifts in understanding classroom literacy practices is the emergent viewpoint of multimodality as a way to enhance participation and inclusion for students with LD. As noted earlier, because many of the students’ difficulties are with print, there is a prevailing notion that working with a wide range of modes can help students express their meaning better and, thus, help to strengthen their status in the classroom as able learners rather than deficient students (Collins, 2011). Stein (2008) added that students’ experiences and background knowledge are crucial factors to consider when planning literacy instruction. Stein viewed students as “agentive, resourceful, creative meaning-makers who communicate using the communicative potential and multiple resources of their bodies and of their 51 environment to interconnect” (p. 122). As such, classroom literacy practices are embodied experiences that contribute to the meaning-making process with print rather than uphold print as a standalone model of literacy. Instructional activities, according to Stein, must also include the use of a variety of modes as “multiple entry points for meaning-making” (p. 335). Stein’s perspective of literacy instruction speaks to collaborative approaches between the teacher and the students to design instruction, which also disrupts the traditional view of teacher-led activities. Viewing literacy instruction and practices as multimodal can have powerful implications as students are seen as creators of meaning. In addition, viewing literacy instruction and practices as multimodal recognizes that students have different “histories and competencies” with each mode, resulting in multimodal meaning-making practices that are highly personal to the students (Stein, 2008, p. 122). The goal of using technology with students with LD is to ensure students can participate in classroom activities that fit their diverse learning needs while also increasing their independence (Blackhurst, 2005; Bruce et al., 2013). In order to build independence, the technology used has to enhance motivation and generate positive learning experiences. Laidlaw and O’Mara (2015) noted that technology can also act as appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities because the devices allow them to work “outside of normative skill expectations” (p. 69). For example, students with fine and gross motor difficulties, in their experience, could still participate in literacy activities because iPads helped to alleviate their issues with writing print. Similarly, Burke and Hughes (2017) added that tablets were important tools that created a more inclusive environment for students with difficulties by helping them to achieve higher levels of academic achievement. Burke and Hughes observed that the functions of the iPads helped to meet students’ needs, 52 which then allowed them to participate more actively in classroom activities. Their findings were echoed in Drewry, Cummin-Potvin, and Maor’s (2019) study about implementing a multimodal literacy program to enhance inclusivity in the classroom. The focal student noted that she felt more comfortable “show[ing] herself” (Drewry et al., 2019, p. 70) through her creation of a multimodal text with video, pictures, music, and voice recording. Rather than seeing it as a distraction, the researchers noted that the many options for design on the devices helped to improve differentiated instruction, which is necessary for inclusivity in the classroom. Although devices and applications offer access to multiple modes, one of the strongest benefits of using technology is its ability to enhance print literacies. Cullen, Richards, and Frank (2008) suggested that students with LD benefitted from applications that addressed their difficulties with written expression, such as difficulties with spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the organization of ideas. Applications that included spell-check, word prediction, and text-to-speech functions improved student writing as well as allowed them to write independently and produce longer writing pieces with clearer communication (Cullen, Richards, & Frank, 2008). These findings were echoed in a study by Parr (2012), who noted that text-to-speech functions were often utilized in the classroom by students with difficulties because the functions were seen as helping students to follow along with the printed text, potentially aiding in comprehension. Teachers in the study believed that using the text-to-speech function as part of their instructional resources increased the independence of students with reading issues. The students reflected on their use of text-to-speech and reported higher levels of self-efficacy because of the options available to them, such as controlling the speed of the reading. Since reading was a large component of all of the 53 literacy programs in the study, text-to-speech helped students with LD to engage with the same or similar content as their peers. Fernández-López, Rodríguez-Fórtiz, Rodríguez-Almendros, and Martínez-Segura (2013) concluded in their study that students developed a stronger sense of autonomy through the use of tablets as their primary device because there were tools and functions that bridged the students’ issues with print. As multimodal meaning-making practices are increasingly being seen as part of inclusive instruction, it is important that students have the opportunity to experiment and engage with technology in a variety of ways. This also helps with reducing the “differential treatment” of students with disabilities as they develop and strengthen competencies with technology (McGhie-Richmond & de Bruin, 2015, p. 228). Thus, the goal of inclusion is valuing different approaches to meaning-making as a class community. With proper teacher guidance, Burke and Hughes (2017) noted that “students struggling with basic literacy skills could find success when high quality applications were used” (p. 196) to meet students’ literacy goals, particularly when expressing their learning. Students reported feeling more engaged, confident, and motivated in their learning when the applications provided functions that suited their needs (Burke & Hughes, 2017). Although these functions centered around writing accuracy, multimodal literacy practices were framed as a way to allow students to engage with their expressions of learning without being sidelined by spelling and grammatical rules. This then helped them to write longer texts and feel more confident during the process (Bruce et al., 2013). As students became increasingly motivated to write and produce works that shared their learning, they were more willing to take risks and move “outside of their comfort zones to explore new possibilities in writing” (Bruce et al., 2013, p. 36). 54 A major aspect of participation is giving students tools to build background knowledge alongside their peers. Images, video, and audio are the most commonly discussed modes to help students build background knowledge and understand a variety of texts better (Cordero et al., 2014; Harrison, 2011; Jewitt, 2008). Even with digital print-centric activities, such as reading websites, Castek et al. (2011) argued that students who struggle with reading can benefit from online reading because “the [I]nternet is now a central source of information, and learning is dependent on the ability to read and comprehend complex information at high levels” (p. 92). Online information is no longer associated with print, and Castek et al. (2011) suggested that, because there is no linear way of viewing information on the Internet, students explore pieces of information in a variety of modes that scaffold their understanding. Students access a variety of information sources that are not necessarily tied to their offline reading comprehension level; instead, the multimedia support higher-level literacy, such as organization, audience, and even comprehension (Castek et al., 2011). However, Coiro (2020) cautioned that digital multimodal texts are likely to have “unique features, with the potential to hinder or support comprehension” (p. 16), which highlights the different affordances and constraints that students encounter individually when navigating multimodal texts online. Under British Columbia’s educational policies, students with LD are often in inclusive or integrated classrooms, in which they interact and learn with peers of different abilities, including students without disabilities (BC Ministry of Education, 2013; BC Ministry of Education, 2018). Technology has been positioned as a way to bridge differences in the classroom and provide students with a variety of options to express their learning (Flewitt, Kucirkova, & Messer, 2014). This also implies a certain level of equal access to 55 devices in order to maintain or even increase participation. Unsurprisingly, many studies reveal the efficacy of group activities that incorporate the strengths of students with LD rather than confine their literacy development to individual remediation (Jones, 2012; McGrail & Davis, 2010). For example, Jones (2012) found that blogging included students with LD as part of the community of writers while providing a range of tools that allowed them to create more meaningful written pieces for a wider (online) audience. Blogs helped to solidify the idea of writing for “real world purposes” (Jones, 2012, p. 16) rather than solely academic ones while still preserving the integrity of writing instruction. Stover, Kissel, Wood, and Putman’s (2015) study about writing with technology supported Jones’s (2012) findings. Students in their study reported positive experiences because they felt the technology allowed them to more easily share their work with “authentic audiences” (p. 352) such as their classmates and parents while teachers noted that they could more easily provide feedback to their students. Teachers felt that they could more easily bridge the differences between school and home literacies through teaching writing with technology, which also motivated students because these activities closely aligned with their interests (Drewry et al., 2020; Price-Dennis, Holmes, & Smith, 2015). 2.4.3 Barriers and Constraints of Technology Although the benefits of technology have been regularly touted in the research literature, it is important to consider the limitations they pose in the classroom. For teachers who regularly deal with a lack of time, space, and access to resources, technology use in the classroom can be difficult and even ineffective for them and their students (Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, Sendurur, & Sendurur, 2012; Francom, 2020; Parette, Quesenberry, & Blum, 2010; Stover et al., 2015; Yeo, 2007). The most common issue in the 56 literature reviewed was a lack of devices for growing class sizes, especially as funding was limited to replace and add devices (Chen, 2008; O’Mara, Laidlaw, & Blackmore, 2017). Kearney, Burden, and Rai (2015) observed that not every student in the classroom had their own device, and, even if they did, they encountered difficulties with them or were unclear about how to use the device to meet their teachers’ learning objectives and expectations. Additionally, the lack of devices impeded the file-sharing and collaborative benefits that are often associated with technology and subsequently reduced feelings of autonomy and efficacy for teachers (Kearney, Burden, & Rai, 2015). Burke and Hughes (2017) listed a wide range of issues in their Canadian-based study, such as security problems, school district safeguards or website filters, insufficient storage on devices, and a limited number of apps deemed educational and useful for students and teachers. For these teachers who were expected to engage with multimodal literacy practices, these issues greatly affected access to materials that students needed to complete their projects effectively. Francom’s (2020) study about teachers in K-12 and technology use in the classroom found that a lack of time was persistent and the greatest barrier for teachers when integrating technology into their practice. The lack of time was not necessarily just about teaching with technology but also try and test out technological tools and resources in meaningful ways prior to designing instruction. The efficacy of instruction with technology is also affected by teachers’ perspectives about using devices and digital content in the classroom. In some North American school districts, standardized assessments require a fair amount of test preparation that reduces time spent on working with devices and digital content. Teachers who were already unfamiliar with technology were found to be even less likely to prioritize devices and digital content 57 over other methods of instruction with print in favor of more closely aligning with material in the assessments (Stover et al., 2015). Ertmer et al. (2012) added that a lack of support by school district administrators with regard to technology implementation can also contribute to teacher inability to use such resources meaningfully in their teaching. Burke and Hughes (2017) pointed out that the teachers in their study confessed to needing more professional development with the vast array of technology in their schools as well as more training to adequately use the devices effectively, especially when teaching students with diverse needs. With regard to the supposed schism between teaching technology or teaching print-based skills, Yeo (2007) found that teachers prioritized “traditional literacies” (p. 121), such as reading books and writing activities, over student competencies in other literacy forms, such as with mobile devices and video games, because of a lack of familiarity with the digital platforms students used most often in their daily lives. Similarly, teacher beliefs about text structure and visuals also affected how multimodal texts were used with students. Poyas and Eilam (2012) noted that teachers’ “prior knowledge, professional experience, personal disposition, and artistic taste, to name only a few, [are] involved and affected the process” (p. 98) of integrating multimodal texts into instructional practices. Francom (2020) added that if all other barriers (e.g., time, training, access, and support) were removed, teacher beliefs about technology, particularly when the study entered its third and final year, still play a significant role. Most notably, teachers reported difficulty keeping up with the changing trends in technology, which also affected their self-efficacy with using different tools in their practice. The study’s findings indicated that teaching beliefs about technology do not necessarily change over time, furthering concerns that teachers may not necessarily access the affordances of technology in their practices. 58 2.4.4 Teachers’ Perspectives About LD and Inclusion Adding to the understanding of teachers’ conceptualizations of literacy, this section focuses on teachers’ perspectives of LD. The way teachers develop their beliefs about LD also, like their understanding of literacy, impacts how they shape their literacy instruction (Siegel & Valtierra, 2017). Hornstra, Denessen, Bakker, van den Bergh, and Voeten (2010) note that teachers’ attitudes can contribute to how they view competencies in literacy; they found that a negative outlook resulted in negative expectations of student learning. As mentioned earlier, Collins (2013) pointed out that ability profiling continues to exist in today’s classrooms, stemming from the use of the LD designation as a way to explain unexpected low achievement. LD is viewed as an “uncontrollable cause of failure” (Clark, 1997, p. 76) by teachers, which results in expectations of students performing below their grade level. Although many students with LD are taught in inclusive classrooms, viewpoints about inclusion can also have negative effects despite inclusion being framed as positive (BC Ministry of Education, 2018b; Loreman, 2014). McGhie-Richmond, Irvine, Loreman, Cizman, and Lupart (2013) found that general education teachers in inclusive classrooms expressed difficulties managing students’ difficulties and instructional time. Moreover, teachers were concerned about pulling out students for therapy and other interventions because the students would miss time in their classrooms, further impacting relationship-building and the bridging of gaps in their instruction (McGhie-Richmond et al., 2013). Lalvani’s (2013) results showed that teachers also had preferences for what difficulties or behaviors were deemed as more appropriate for inclusive classroom environments. Students who were seen as more fitting for general education classrooms typically had fewer difficult 59 behaviors and cognitive abilities that were perceived to be closer to expectations of students without disabilities. Other factors that may further complicate teachers’ beliefs about disability include a lack of resources to meet diverse learning needs and growing class sizes as well as weak administrative or teaching support, which can further increase responsibilities of teachers (McGhie-Richmond et al., 2013). 2.5 Chapter Summary In this chapter, I discussed the theoretical framework and literature that guided and informed my study. I first addressed my understanding of literacy and classroom literacy practices, which were drawn from sociocultural theory, social semiotics, multimodality, and multiliteracies. Literacy was seen as inherently multimodal and included the use of multiple semiotic resources to communicate and construct meaning in both digital and non-digital contexts. Print was just one of the semiotic resources identified as being available for use in constructing and communicating meaning. Multiliteracies pedagogy has become increasingly prevalent in classrooms as teachers adopt this framework for instruction to guide their work with students with diverse learning needs. However, as teachers implement more technology in their instruction, I argued that a framework for teachers’ knowledge was needed to better understand what teachers know and need to know about using a variety of tools in addition to their responsibility to teach content knowledge. I then discussed how, despite these changing conceptualizations of literacy, students with LD are still defined by their difficulties with print literacies in school. I also explained how conceptualizations of LD can be unpacked using a sociocultural lens to better understand how a school environment, literacy curricula, and societal notions of deficit limit the literacy practices of students with LD. In my discussion of disability, I noted that there 60 are two outlooks of literacy—the biomedical model and the social model. The biomedical model tends to frame LD as a cognitive impairment within a student while the social model counters this perspective by arguing that disability is a social construct. Despite the availability of multiple lenses through which to view disability, the biomedical model has continued to persist in definitions of LD, which is evident in curriculum development and in assessment practices that assume a level of appropriate academic achievement at each grade level. Students who fall outside of the norm tend to be viewed from a deficit perspective even though a sociocultural lens argues that LD can only exist through the upholding of certain societal beliefs about disability—the drawing of arbitrary academic lines by school systems being a prime example. As this chapter drew to a close, I provided a review of the literature about classroom literacy practices of teachers and of students with LD. The literature review addressed four topics: instructional practices in the classroom, multimodality as a means of inclusion and participation, barriers and constraints of using technology during literacy instruction, and teachers’ conceptualizations of LD and inclusion. As a means to counteract the deficit perspective of LD, classroom literacy practices have become increasingly seen as multimodal. Students are encouraged to share their learning using a variety of modes in addition to print. However, classroom literacy practices are also limited by particular constraints, including the prevailing notion of literacy as print-centric, the lack of access to materials (particularly technology), and teachers’ difficulties broadening their perspectives of literacy and LD. In the next chapter, I discuss my case study research design, data collection methods, and steps taken toward data analysis. 61 Chapter 3: Research Methodology In this chapter, I discuss my research design, data collection, and analysis methods, as well as how my methods relate to my research questions for the study. I also address how my pilot study informed my decisions about data collection. My research questions are as follows: 1. What are the multimodal meaning-making practices the teacher implements during literacy instruction to meet the needs of the student with learning disabilities? 2. How does the student with learning disabilities engage with meaning-making practices during literacy instruction in the classroom? 3.1 Case Study as a Research Design I conceived this research study as a single case study because I was addressing my research questions in a specific context with a limited number of participants. As a methodology, case study calls for the use of multiple data collection methods to explore the complexity of social behavior through a variety of lenses and relies on the use of theory to guide the research process and the data analysis (Baxter & Jack, 2008; Glesne, 2016; Meyer, 2001). Yin (2014) noted that a single case study is an appropriate design when a specific human condition—LD in this case—offers “a distinct opportunity worth documenting and analyzing” (p. 52). However, I also argued earlier in this dissertation that LD were not necessarily extreme or unusual in the context of my study. As mentioned before, the BC Ministry of Education (2017) reported there were nearly 18,000 students with LD within a total population of 557,000 students between kindergarten and Grade 12; therefore, it can be considered quite normal to have students with LD in the classroom. I approached this case 62 study, then, as a look into “an everyday situation” (Yin, 2014, p. 52), with the goal of contributing to “knowledge and theory building by confirming, challenging, or extending the theory” (Yin, 2014, p. 51). A single case study design was also appropriate because there were no other participants of a similar age and position I could compare my data to, such as a second teacher and another focal student with LD. I chose case study as my research design because I was interested in how my participants engaged in multimodal meaning-making practices within the shared space of a classroom as well as how they understood their practices. This interest meant I had to choose a research design that allowed their perspectives to be the primary focus. I aligned closely with Merriam’s (1998) and Stake’s (2003) philosophical beliefs about case study, both of whom wrote about case study from a constructivist perspective in which knowledge is constructed rather than discovered. In the context of this study, I understood case study as an intensive focus on people’s knowledge about their lives within a specific context of space or location (e.g., communities, organizations, and institutions) and time. Case study research is generally done to “understand a real-world case and assume that such an understanding is likely to involve important contextual conditions pertinent to [the] case” (Yin, 2014, p. 16). This is otherwise known as a descriptive case study. Merriam (1998) wrote that a case study can also extend what is currently known for the reader and can “bring about the discovery of new meaning” (p. 30), which, in this study, was exploring the participants’ nuanced classroom literacy practices. I recognized that my study was very specific to the location (i.e., the school district, the neighborhood, the school itself, and the classroom) and that the way LD was conceptualized within these contexts was dependent on how my teacher participant interacted with the school and classroom environment. Because my participants 63 had very different identities, experiences, and roles in the classroom, I acknowledged that there were “multiple realities having multiple meanings” (Yin, 2014, p. 17) despite their close proximity to each other on a regular basis. Although Yin argued that multiple case study designs are generally better for theory development, Dyer and Wilkins (1991) noted that a careful study of a single case “leads researchers to see new theoretical relationships and question old ones” (p. 614). With single case studies, they argued that researchers engage in a deeper analysis of the data and build a stronger understanding of the phenomenon being studied. They noted a risk of surface-level generalizations during multiple case studies and believed that “theory that is born of such deep insights will be more accurate and more appropriately tentative because the researcher must take into account the intricacies and qualifications of a particular context” (Dyer & Wilkins, 1991, p. 615). Flyvbjerg (2006) argued that generalization does not necessarily contribute to more valid knowledge production. Instead, he noted that “formal generalization is overvalued as a source of scientific development, whereas ‘the force of example’ is underestimated” (Flyvberg, 2006, p. 228). In other words, the selection of the case and the reasons why a specific case is being studied bears more importance than generalizations as a single case can refute commonly held assumptions or beliefs. Although my participants engaged in routines within the same classroom space, the literacy instruction were not necessarily planned and delivered by the teacher or experienced by the student in the same way from day to day; the contexts of the literacy practices shifted during each session of data collection, which generated more complex and nuanced findings. One of the complexities of designing a case study is identifying the case and the unit of analysis. Research methodologists have claimed that the case and the unit of analysis are 64 the same thing in case study research (Grünbaum, 2007; Yin; 2014); however, I found the lack of distinction to be unhelpful in considering the identity of my participants, their experiences, their actions, their attitudes, and their spoken beliefs about their literacy practices. Merriam (1998) defined a case as “a thing, a single entity, a unit around which there are boundaries” (p. 27), which led me to question what attributes were considered to be part of the case. After multiple readings of case study design, I came to understand the case as a particular person or social group, program, or event being studied for a defined period of time that can be described with identifying information, such as geographic location, institution or organization, age, gender, and role/function (Hitchcock, Hitchcock, & Hughes, 1995; Leedy & Ormrod, 2016; Street & Heath, 2008). In this study, the boundary around my case was linked to the schooling and classroom environment, the grade level, the school year and the teacher’s availability, and the LD designation of the focal student. Dyson and Genishi (2005) recommended researchers collect information about the setting of their research, including “the configuration of time and space, of people, and of activity in their physical sites” (p. 19). They coined this method as “casing the joint” (Dyson & Genishi, 2005, p. 85), which I found helped me collect information in terms of who, where, and when I was conducting my study; however, it did not help me to answer the specifics of what was happening with the participants as I collected the data to address my research questions. To differentiate the case from the unit of analysis, I drew from Grünbaum’s (2007) conceptual paper about identifying the unit of analysis in case study research and Pahl’s (2007) work about multimodal events and practices. Grünbaum (2007) noted that there can be many layers to the case (i.e., location of the research and the identities of the participants) but the unit of analysis is “the ‘heart’ of the case” that is demystified through data collection. 65 I first needed to consider what I was conducting an analysis of within the larger case and address the question of what this case study was about on a more broader level (Baxter & Jack, 2008). Ultimately, this was a case study of how a teacher implemented multimodal meaning-making practices to meet the needs of a focal student with LD. To further refine my unit of analysis within this case study, I drew heavily from Pahl’s (2007) extension of literacy events and literacy practices to multimodal events and multimodal practices as the units of analysis. Multimodal events are observable behaviors and actions with a variety of modes (e.g., creating a text, drawing, and writing) while multimodal practices are the beliefs and values about meaning-making with a number of semiotic modes (e.g., print, pictures or photos, sound, movies, gestures, etc.). Pahl (2007) noted that “multimodal events and practices, like literacy events and practices, are situated within a range of contexts, domains and ideologies” (p. 86). As such, I understood my units of analysis as the multimodal events and practices that took place between the teacher and the student during whole-class, small-group, and one-to-one instruction. I analyzed the multimodal events by examining the time periods of the events (when did they occur in the class schedule and class routines), different pedagogical methods implemented by the teacher, the materials used by the teacher and the student, the student’s assignments, and the participants’ interactions that took place during literacy instruction. From the multimodal events, which included observable actions and interactions between the participants during literacy instruction, I was able to infer the teacher and the student’s experiences with multimodal practices. Drawing from Drewry et al. (2019), activities elicit the participants’ attitudes, emotions, and beliefs (otherwise known as part of their experiences during the activities). They noted that the focal student with a mild LD in their study recognized that she had trouble with reading, writing, and spelling. In order 66 to address this issue, she regularly asked her peers for help with questions she found challenging. Thus, the student’s prior experiences during print-based activities brought on some uncomfortable feelings, resulting in her developing strategies to cope with the academic work with her peers. Consequently, activities are difficult to differentiate from experiences. Because this research work was done with a student with LD, I referred to Artiles’ (1998) observation that “the unit of analysis is not the individual child, but rather, the-individual-in-action-within-special-contexts” (p. 98). As I mentioned in Chapter 2, a sociocultural lens of disability considers environmental factors (e.g., classroom space, literacy curriculum, and assessment) that contribute to making the LD more obvious, and these factors are always situational based on the context. Gorichanaz, Latham, and Wood (2018) added that participants’ daily lives, projects and tasks, and attitudes about the world around them also serve to contextualize the unit of analysis; in this study, I considered these factors to be part of the special contexts that Artiles (1998) referred to in his writing. In Figure 3.1, I sought to illustrate how the case (the literacy practices of my participants) was intertwined with the unit of analysis (the multimodal meaning-making events that took place). It was important for me to study the participants’ activities within specific contexts (e.g., time of day, other people they engaged with, and with what materials) to notice “patterns of participation” (Borko, 2004, p. 4) as well as explore how they understood their practices during multimodal events. 67 Figure 3.1 The case (the teacher and the focal student) and the unit of analysis (the multimodal events and practices) for this single case study. From the theoretical review about literacy practices, I contextualized the case with the knowledge and literacy practices of the teacher and the student (depicted as rectangles in Figure 3.1). I understood all observable actions and behaviors to be informed by unspoken beliefs and thought processes that are enacted in the classroom through teacher-student interactions, instruction, and learning behaviors. The participants’ practices during literacy activities were expected to be different depending on the contexts of instruction (e.g., whole class, small group, and one-to-one instruction). Each of these contexts was needed because the teacher and the student participants were not always working together for long periods of 68 time. The literacy practices of the participants changed depending on the context of instruction and other teachers or students involved during the literacy activity. 3.2 Participants Before discussing the research study in detail, it is important to introduce the participants first. In this section, I describe the recruitment process for this study and how I met the participants, Cate and Theo. I also talk more about their experiences as well as their connections to the school community. 3.2.1 Participant Selection and Recruitment The selection criteria of the teacher participant were based on teaching experience and professional knowledge. The teacher had to be working in an elementary setting with Grades 1–7 and have a working knowledge of LD. This knowledge could have come from a variety of sources, such as their teacher education coursework, practicum and/or classroom experience, or professional development. The main criterion was that the teacher needed to be working currently with a student with LD in literacy since the teacher needed to choose a focal student for this study. The second criterion was that the teacher needed to have had prior communication with their classroom students’ parents, guardians, or family members about the learning difficulty so that no focal student was selected without their parents’ awareness or knowledge of the LD. The focal student’s selection criteria were based on the BC Ministry of Education’s (2016) definition of learning disabilities: Learning disabilities refers to a number of disorders that may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding, or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least 69 average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. As such, learning disabilities are distinct from global intellectual disabilities. (p. 47) This definition was used because teachers would be most familiar with how the Ministry describes LD, and it would be the most relevant definition to their teaching practice. Likewise, I assumed parents, guardians, and family members of students with LD would recognize this definition because of continued communication with the teacher and administrators. At the time of the study, the teacher needed to have had some form of documentation of the LD. Documentation could have included assessments, diagnoses by medical practitioners, previous teachers’ reports, parent and teacher observations, and other assignments or assessments that indicated difficulty with literacy. Students who did not have such documentation, such as those suspected of having a difficulty and who were in the process of being diagnosed or assessed, were not considered. This was because it was possible that the student could have been assessed as not having LD under BC’s criteria and would have been mis-categorized in my study as having one. Students in kindergarten were also excluded because they would have been still learning how to read and write and would have been less likely to have been considered as having LD because they were so young. I was hesitant to recruit students who were considered early years learners (i.e., kindergarten to Grade 2) because of the same concerns I had with students in kindergarten. For privacy and confidentiality reasons, I did not ask to collect any forms of documentation describing the LD because I believed it would be too intrusive for the student and the parents. 70 3.2.2 Cate Frost I first talked to Cate1 when she wrote to me expressing an interest in participating in my pilot study. At the time, she was teaching a Grade 5 class. She was an experienced teacher in the Seton school district, having worked there for more than eight years. She also lived in the same city with her husband and two young children, so her ties to the community were strong. Prior to this, she taught in Taiwan in an English kindergarten/Grade 1 classroom for five years before returning to British Columbia to complete her Bachelor of Education and, eventually, her Master of Education. Cate’s experience in the classroom and her studies led her to join my study because she had a lot of questions about using multimodal resources with students with diverse learning needs. The school district had recently purchased new iPads and robotics devices, and Cate was trying to figure out how best to integrate these new resources into her teaching as well as gauge their effectiveness in literacy learning. Cate’s class of 27 students reflected the cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity of Seton. Her class consisted of students who were English-language learners, refugees, and newly immigrated children, but the majority of her students spoke English fluently. She also taught students with socioemotional issues and diverse learning needs. Because her class included such a mix of learning abilities and languages, she viewed multimodal meaning-making practices as a way of helping students to bridge their knowledge and experiences to the curriculum. This was also why she wanted to participate in the study. She hoped to gain more knowledge about her instruction with multimodal meaning-making practices to better address the focal student’s learning needs. 1 All participant names and locations in this study have been changed to pseudonyms. 71 3.2.3 Theo Darcy Cate chose Theo as the focal student because he already had paperwork with the school district to file for the LD designation and for additional instructional support. Theo had been attending Knoll Elementary since Grade 2, but Cate noted that, despite his years in the school, he was still missing services for his reading and writing. She noted that the paperwork to formally assign him a disability designation was missing signatures from appropriate school district personnel even though his mother had already signed off on the designation. Cate explained to me that [t]here was some assessment that was dropped; like, he moved schools between Grade 2 and 3 or Grade 1 and 2. There was a shift, and there was an assessment that was almost complete, but, when he moved here, it wasn’t completed, so they were missing a signature. His mom signed off on a designation, but then there was school paperwork that didn’t get done and hasn’t been done in three years. (Interview, March 15, 2018) This oversight meant that Theo was never formally referred to the district for the interventional instruction he needed for his difficulties. After noticing the incomplete paper work at the beginning of Theo’s Grade 5 school year, Cate recommended him for services with the Learner Support Team in hopes of obtaining the small-group and individual attention he needed in literacy and math. By the time I entered her classroom in March 2018, Cate had successfully secured services for math, which he received in a pull-out program on Friday mornings. However, Theo was removed from the pull-out reading group support provided by the Learner Support Team even though Cate explained that she felt he was not thriving without additional reading support. The Learning Support Team concluded that 72 Theo progressed enough between Grade 4 and 5 in his reading skills to not warrant extra literacy instruction. However, Cate noticed discrepancies between his ability to decode words and his ability to comprehend texts by himself. Cate noted there were too many students that required services and that probably contributed to the delays in getting Theo the help he needed to complete literacy activities. Although Theo’s formal designation had not yet been finalized by the beginning of the school year, Theo was still an acceptable focal student because Cate and Theo’s mother both agreed that Theo had a learning disability despite the missing signature on his designation. Cate confirmed that, had the paperwork been completed, Theo would have had the formal LD designation and would have been eligible for services to support his learning. During literacy instruction and activities, Theo experienced difficulties with both reading and writing. Cate noticed that Theo was quick to mask his challenges with his bright and outgoing personality. Although he had strong decoder skills as a reader, he had difficulties with his comprehension and his retention of information for application to other literacy work. Cate noted that, if he spent one block of Daily 5 researching and reading about a topic, he would experience difficulties remembering that information the next day for his projects, and he would have to re-read the material. Because he was reading below grade-level, Theo often struggled with both informational and fictional texts in Cate’s classroom. For example, during his reading of White Water, a picture book about racial discrimination in the 1950s, Theo interpreted figurative language and images as literal information, and Cate noted that, despite picture books being multimodal, he struggled with interpreting some of the images, which further confused him. However, Theo still enjoyed reading more than writing. His written output was limited as Theo often needed more time to gather his ideas, 73 make connections, and organize his thoughts, processes which were overwhelming for him as he was easily distracted. He often made efforts to avoid written work by taking bathroom breaks, checking in with friends, or doing another activity. As a result, Cate, the educational assistant assigned to another student, and I spent some time sitting next to him to keep him focused, talk him through his ideas, and even scribe for him. Cate observed that, although he did not like to write, he was more productive typing even if he still needed an extended amount of time to finish an assignment. Theo had a strong interest in technology and utilized the available devices (e.g., iPads and MacBooks), applications (e.g., Edmodo, GarageBand, and Bloxels EDU), and media platforms (e.g., YouTube and Discovery Education) in class quickly and proficiently. At the same time, he was often so enraptured with the technology that he would miss the learning criteria outlined by Cate. Theo sometimes used the devices as a form of opting out of work that was challenging for him, which meant Cate had to determine an appropriate time for him to be on a device. Theo had varied interests and abilities. His first language was English, and, during our time together, he discovered that he had a Cree/Métis background, which prompted his interest in learning more about his heritage. Theo also enjoyed sports, video games, and technology as well as hands-on activities, such as playing with LEGO toys and creating arts and crafts. Socially, he was always open to meeting new people and talking about his interests and his experiences. Although friendly and outgoing, Theo experienced occasional miscommunications in his peer relationships as Cate noted that he would sometimes say things that would be considered off-putting to his classmates. However, he felt really connected to his school and neighborhood community. For example, Cate and her class hosted weekly “Little Buddies” reading groups with the preschool students from the nearby 74 Montessori school. Each Grade 4/5 student was paired with at least one preschooler. Although some students in Theo’s class were reluctant to read to the younger students, Theo was always excited to spend time with his little buddies. His reading difficulties were also less apparent as he read picture books to two preschoolers at a time. At one point in the study he was even entrusted to read to a group of three little buddies. In June 2018, Theo experienced an accident at home that left him with a concussion and a fractured elbow, which limited data collection toward the end of the study. Incidentally, Theo also reported feeling saddened by his impending move at the end of the school year. 3.3 The School Setting The study was completed at Knoll Elementary School in the Seton school district, one of the largest school districts in British Columbia. Knoll Elementary enrolled about 300-350 K–7 students, with new classrooms added for the 2017–2018 school year. Cate noted there were many new teachers this year as many others had retired or left during the past year. Seton was a diverse city with many different cultural backgrounds, home languages, and socioeconomic statuses. Despite the busyness of such a large city, Knoll Elementary was situated near a park in a quiet residential neighborhood off a main stretch of businesses. I had last visited the school in June 2017 after I had finished my pilot study and, upon my return in March 2018, I noticed a change in the neighborhood as buildings had been demolished to make way for a new transit system. Cate noted some families and students had to move away because their homes had been demolished to appropriate more land for the incoming transit system, and they could not afford to stay in the area. Rental housing near the school was even more limited than before. In fact, by the end of this study in June 2018, the focal student’s family had plans to move to a city east of Seton, about an hour away. 75 The curriculum used in Knoll Elementary at the time of this study was a result of the Ministry of Education’s implementation of a new curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 7 in 2016. The underlying goal of the revised curriculum was that students would be able to engage with a wide variety of texts in order to develop competencies in “listening to understand; communicating effectively; presenting information and ideas with confidence and fluency; and understanding the connections between language and culture” (BC Ministry of Education, 2019, English Language Arts Curricular Competencies, para. 1). For Grade 4 and 5 students, the BC Ministry of Education (2018a) expected them to integrate a variety of texts to build their background knowledge, respond to these texts by making connections, and create new texts with their own ideas and the information gained from their work with multiple texts. These specific guidelines by the Ministry called for teachers to use a variety of multimodal texts and new technologies with the understanding that every teacher approached multimodal instruction differently. By the time I met Cate, she was using this curriculum to frame her instruction. Cate focused on empowering students with choices in their literacy activities to enhance motivation in their learning. She followed a model of literacy instruction used throughout the district called Daily 5. Daily 5 was a published American literacy program that was first made available in 2006. The program was structured in a way that allowed space for students’ choices in activities, autonomy, and self-growth as they took on more ownership of their literacy learning and work (Boushey & Moser, 2014). Daily 5 promoted the following core beliefs that teachers were expected to adopt: “trusting students, providing choice, nurturing community, creating a sense of urgency, building stamina, and staying out of students’ way once routines are established” (Boushey & Moser, 2014, p. 18). 76 Cate designed reading, writing, and vocabulary activities that students completed individually or in small groups during Daily 5 while she circulated around the classroom to check in with her students as well as hold book-group meetings. She also readily used technology and multimodal resources as a part of her instruction to differentiate learning for her students. Because she taught in an inclusive classroom that included a mix of students with linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds, various learning designations (e.g., LD and socioemotional/behavioral issues), and no disabilities, she had to tailor her teaching to best suit the students’ wide range of needs and interests. Cate also integrated literacy activities throughout content areas such as math, science, and social studies. Her instructional approaches mirrored the recommendations by the BC Ministry of Education (2018b) to implement a Universal Design of Learning approach toward differentiated instruction and technology. Universal Design of Learning is defined as learning spaces and teaching methods that allow for multiple means of engagement, representation, actions, and expression (Center for Applied Special Technology, 2018). Cate’s instruction included multiple ways of accessing content and information as well as ensuring her students had a choice in how they wanted to represent their ideas and learning while also meeting curricular competencies. 3.4 Ethical Research Practice with Participants In January 2018, approval was granted by the Seton school district and by BREB to begin the study with Cate confirmed as one of the participants. After the pilot study, Cate informed me that she was interested in participating in my dissertation study and that she planned to ask her colleagues to join her as my original intent had been to have two teachers and two focal students. However, by the time I received permission to enter the school by 77 Cate’s principal, the other interested teacher declined to participate, and it was decided with my supervisor to only focus on Cate and the focal student given the limited time I would have in her class. Cate and I met in her classroom to review the consent form (see Appendix A) and details of the study, including the study’s purpose, the data collection methods, privacy and confidentiality, and any potential risks of the study. We also discussed the best way to contact the focal student’s parents for consent. It was decided that Cate would present the key information about the study after school with the parents as well as send the consent form home. The parents would then have my contact information and would be able to communicate with me by e-mail or phone if they had any questions or concerns. After a couple of weeks, Theo’s mother submitted to Cate the consent form for Theo’s participation (see Appendix B). Assent with Theo (see Appendix C) was obtained in March 2018, and I reviewed the study in child-friendly and age-appropriate language by avoiding technical and academic terms in my explanation. For example, I explained the study to Theo as a project to learn from his teacher and from him about teaching and learning English Language Arts. I also told him that I would be taking photos and recording talks with him with an iPod Touch as well as writing notes in a notebook to help him anticipate what to expect from me when I visited the classroom. Finally, I carefully reviewed his right to exclude any information he was not comfortable with me using for the study, such as selected photos or sensitive information recorded during the interviews. At appropriate times, Theo was also welcomed to look at photos taken on the iPod Touch to ensure he knew what kinds of photos I was taking. 78 Theo’s mother, although she was not involved in the study, was able to view photos of Theo and his work through UBC’s Workspace, a secured cloud storage system compliant with Canadian privacy policies. Every month, Theo’s mother was asked to review the photos and to send an e-mail to me confirming she was comfortable with the photos being used for the data analysis. She also had the right to omit photos she did not want to be part of the analysis; however, she did not exercise this right for any of the photos. This process of sharing the photos ensured that Theo’s mother was aware of the study’s progress; as a result, we maintained consistent contact throughout the study. Cate, Theo, and Theo’s mother were also given the option to withdraw from the study at any time if they wished to do so. Theo was also told he could “sit out” of data collection if he did not feel like being photographed or interviewed that day. As mentioned earlier, Theo experienced an accident at home that led to a fractured elbow and a concussion resulting in multiple visits to the hospital. He was absent from school for a few days at a time to recuperate as much as possible. When he was in school, he experienced lingering effects from the concussion and severe drowsiness from his lack of sleep because of his pain and his reaction to the side effects from his allergy medication. He was also working with a cast and a sling, which limited his mobility, especially while building his simple machines project and taking photos and videos of his work to upload onto his portfolio. Because of this, I made the decision to limit my data collection with him to reduce his stress even though he did not specifically request to opt out of the observation or the photo documentation for the day. In an effort to maintain confidentiality, the names of people and places were assigned pseudonyms. Furthermore, the participants were informed that any identifying information in the photos would be removed or blurred out. In the photos shared with Theo’s mother, other 79 students’ faces were blurred or cropped out to further ensure the privacy of the other students who were not participating in the study (Delamont, 2012). 3.5 Preparing for the Study: Volunteer Experience and Pilot Study In order to refine my data collection methods and acclimate myself to school communities again, I participated in volunteering and completed a pilot study in two separate schools, respectively. In each of these two schools, I experienced a different classroom culture, environment, and grade level. Working between an early childhood classroom and an upper elementary classroom shaped my decision to complete my dissertation study with older elementary-aged students. In the following two sections, I recount my experiences in the classrooms and further detail how my time there informed my dissertation study. 3.5.1 Volunteer Experience Prior to this dissertation study, it was suggested by my committee to volunteer in a classroom to reintegrate myself into an elementary teaching environment and to find ways a researcher can be helpful to a teacher. From May to June 2015, I volunteered in my former classmate’s kindergarten/Grade 1 classroom in a local school. During my time in her class, I helped her with classroom management and student projects as well as leading reading groups for a Grade 1 class next door. Although this was a short volunteer stint, the teachers let me know how important it was to be willing to engage with the students and the school community. For them, reciprocity was key to a successful research experience. Although I enjoyed my time with the younger students, I realized that evaluations of LD by school districts and medical professionals often take a long time and tend to be more prominent in students who are older; thus, it was important for me to shift my recruitment toward older elementary students. 80 3.5.2 Pilot Study From April to June 2017, I conducted a pilot study with the teacher participant featured in this dissertation study and a focal student with LD in Grade 5. I received approval from the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Behavioral Research Ethics Board (BREB) for the pilot study in December 2016, and the school district’s research office also approved my application to conduct a short study. However, I experienced difficulties with recruitment as many principals did not respond to my initial contact e-mails. As time was limited, I discussed with my committee member, Dr. Marianne McTavish, about recruitment strategies, and she offered to send a notice to the practicing teachers in her graduate course. The only teacher who responded with interest to the notice was Cate. With my recruitment method, participant number, and study location amended, both my BREB application and my research proposal to the school district’s research office were approved in March 2017. For this pilot study, I observed Cate and a student she had chosen named Sam for three to six hours once a week over the course of eight weeks. This length of time allowed me to capture literacy instruction as well as cross-curricular activities. The goal of the pilot study was to refine my data collection methods as well as my research questions. At the time, the committee and I planned my data collection methods to be observations, semi-structured interviews, photo documentation, and artifact collection. Through my observations and photo documentation, I noted how Cate taught with multimodal resources during whole-class, small-group, and individual instruction with Sam. I also documented the types of multimodal resources available to Cate and Sam (i.e., devices, applications, and tactile materials) as well as Sam’s responses to the resources and his use of them for his own learning. For example, in my photo documentation, I was able to capture incidents where Sam opted out of literacy 81 activities, especially if they involved writing, as well as times he was receptive to Cate’s use of media and participated in small-group discussions. These photos and observations were supplemented with participant interviews during which Cate discussed her rationale for designing her instruction, her frustrations with and enjoyment using multimodal resources, as well as her views about Sam as a learner and his social and academic needs. From Sam’s perspective, he shared stories about why he liked using devices for his learning (because they were fun to use) as well as times he felt uncomfortable or did not want to participate in certain literacy activities. Participation became a key theme during the observations as Cate and I both noticed there were times that Sam was hesitant to use technology despite his proficiency with all of the devices used in the classroom. By the end of the study, it was clear that artifact collection was redundant because all of Sam’s work and Cate’s teaching materials were captured in the photos. It was decided that photography would be used to capture student work, teaching resources, and other print materials. I also wanted to respect Cate’s time and did not want her to find copies of materials for me. With the mix of whole-class, small-group, and independent work in the class, I also revised the design of my case study to better fit how Cate led her class throughout the day. As mentioned before, I originally meant to focus only on teacher-student interactions, and I envisioned observing one-to-one instruction. Shortly after starting the pilot study, I quickly realized this would limit the amount of time I could actually observe Cate and Sam together because Cate frequently moved between groups of students, and Sam worked independently or in small groups without Cate. As such, I had to organize my observations and photo documentation as subsets of data within each day. Each subset was dependent on the context, such as the literacy activity (e.g., story-writing, group reading, or text analysis) or cross- 82 curricular activities that joined literacy with another content area (e.g., the reading and analysis of non-fiction/expository texts during social studies). The activities in general also called for different learning tools, from hard copies with illustrated texts to technology-related activities. This revision in the organization of my observations and photos ended up being a more efficient way of describing my photos because I typed my observation notes with the corresponding photos (Suchar, 1997). With the “lessons” I learned from the pilot study, I conducted my dissertation study in a similar manner to help ease my entrance into Cate’s classroom and because she was already familiar with my data collection strategies. 3.6 Data Collection Methods My data collection methods were participant observations, semi-structured interviews and informal talks, and photo documentation. In this section, I detail the purposes for each of my methods as well as my experiences using the methods in the classroom. To investigate the two research questions, I collected data through weekly observations and written field notes, recorded and transcribed interviews with Cate and Theo each month, and took photos during observation of literacy instruction. 3.6.1 Participant Observations Merriam (1998) noted that observations are one of the primary forms of data collection in qualitative research as they help researchers to make sense of what is happening in the environment of their study. Participant observation allows the researcher to “see things firsthand and [use] his or her knowledge and expertise in interpreting what is observed rather than relying upon once removed accounts from interviews. Observation makes it possible to record behavior as it is happening” (Merriam, 1998, p. 96). For this study, I decided to be a participant-observer. This was important to me because of the feedback I received during my 83 volunteer experience, where teachers told me that a researcher’s participation was important to them as guests in their classrooms. Participant observation allowed me to integrate myself into the schedule, routines, and general flow of the class as well as become an “active member” (Flick, 2014, p. 296). I expected the school community to interact with me—from asking about my study to working with the students—and it was impossible for me to be a silent researcher confined to the back of the room for my observations. Instead, I set aside pockets of time to interact with the teacher and all of the students as needed as well as to observe my participants carefully. At times, observations and the writing of field notes were not appropriate, such as when students needed my help, but I made sure to return to my field notes after taking care of those situations. It was crucial to the study that I observe interactions between Cate and Theo during literacy activities and instruction. I observed Cate during her whole-class instruction, of which Theo was a part. Theo also worked in small groups, such as for book club, projects, and discussion, as well as for logistical reasons, such as sharing materials and devices. Many of my observations also included Theo in these small groups as Cate circulated through the classroom to work with the rest of the students. During these small-group observations with and without Cate, I observed Theo with his classmates as they discussed the topic at hand or worked on projects. As per the school district’s research protocol, I maintained a distance from Theo and his peers as necessary. Initially, I was worried this protocol limited my interactions with him, but eventually I used it as an opportunity to observe the classroom environment more holistically and get to know the student and his classmates so that my presence in the classroom would be normalized. I rotated around the class to capture Theo’s literacy 84 practices from a distance as well as to look at other examples of work being done as a way to gauge the expectations of Cate and her instruction with multimodal resources. The students were quick to welcome me, and I was able to sit closer to Theo and observe his individual and group work, which afforded me more in-depth observations of the student and his discussions with others during literacy activities. When I was writing my field notes or taking photos, the students generally ignored me because they recognized I was busy. Occasionally, the students asked me what I was writing about, and I often responded that I was taking notes on their activities because I wanted to remember their work. Eventually, the students stopped asking questions because my observations were no longer a curious practice to them. I kept field notes of my observations in a journal that I carried with me throughout my observations. I followed Merriam’s (1998) guidelines on recording the physical setting of the classroom, including the layout; the participants; their activities and interactions; as well as their conversations. I also wrote about my feelings, questions, and other ideas or thoughts that occurred to me during the observation. There were occasions when I wrote snippets or reminders to myself if I was too busy to write in detail. For example, there were times I was more actively involved with the students and their work, such as helping them with projects or explaining directions. I was also frequently moving from space to space with Cate and the class, which restricted my ability to write my notes in full. Photography also preoccupied me and resulted in an inability to maneuver more than one data collection instrument (the iPod Touch and my notebook) at a time. After my photography task was completed, I would return to my reminders and complete the field notes in more detail. 85 3.6.2 Semi-Structured Interviews and Informal Talks Flick (2014) defined semi-structured interviews as “a set of prepared, mostly open-ended questions, which guide the interview and the interviewer” (p. 197). I utilized semi-structured interviews because they allowed for participant perspectives to emerge. I recognized that the participants interpreted the questions in their own way, which also helped me to take into account their “complex stock of knowledge” (Flick, 2014, p. 217) about the research topic. The goal of the interviews was to gain a better understanding of the participants’ literacy practices in the classroom while also providing them opportunities to describe and reflect on their experiences with multimodal resources. Both participants were interviewed once per month using the Voice Memo application on the iPod Touch. Interviews were then uploaded and backed up onto my laptop and transcribed using Microsoft Word. Both the iPod Touch and the laptop were password protected to ensure security of the data. The location services on the iPod Touch were also disabled to prevent tracking of the device in consideration of the privacy of the participants. I reviewed each transcription to determine my next course of data collection and my next set of interview questions using my semi-structured interview questions as a guide. The teacher’s interviews were naturally longer given that she was the adult participant. Her interviews often lasted from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on her availability (see Appendix D for the teacher and focal student interview instrument). Cate’s first interview was conducted in early March 2018, prior to the beginning of the observations. Routinely, her monthly interviews were done at or after the end of the month. All of the interviews were conducted after school in her classroom. The only exception to this was her post-study interview, conducted in mid-August 2018; Cate chose the local public library as the interview location 86 since the school was unavailable due to a summer camp, and she was transitioning to a new position in the district, so her classroom was unavailable anyway. I asked her questions around her instruction with multimodal materials, her teaching philosophy, her beliefs about LD, the focal student and his work, as well as her reflections on the activities that occurred over the course of the month. Throughout the interviews and informal conversations, I also asked clarification questions to verify if I had accurately interpreted her experiences. The student’s “informal talks” (see Appendix D) were far shorter and limited to 15 minutes as recommended by the school district’s research protocol. I was initially concerned the interview time would be too short to capture all of the information I needed for research; however, it ended up being an appropriate length of time given his attention span and his eagerness to rejoin the classroom. He was often worried he would be missing something important while he was out of the class, but I assured him we would adhere to the 15-minute limit. His interviews were recorded during the school day and scheduled with him and the teacher to ensure he did not miss any instruction, work time, lunch, or recess. He chose the empty stairwell space down the hall from his classroom as the interview location because he felt it was quieter and he was comfortable in that space. However, occasionally his interviews would be interrupted by his friends and teachers moving through that space. Informal talks with him often revolved around the assignment he was working on, his feelings about the teacher’s instruction, and his participation in group and whole-class activities. In addition to these short talks, I noted all of the conversations we had about his work and interests in my field notes. Although these conversations were not recorded like the talks, they served to further inform me of the student’s experiences with multimodal literacies. 87 3.6.3 Photo Documentation Photos were taken with the iPod Touch during the observations with the intent of including a multimodal form of data collection in this study. With the classroom being so busy and lively, photos served as a way to capture instruction and learning as well as to take note of the many resources used during literacy activities that would be difficult to notate in field notes. Rose (2016) defined photo documentation as a carefully taken and curated series of photographs to document a social occurrence or setting. In the context of this study, I took photos of how multimodality was implemented during language arts instruction, such as the participants engaging with printed text, using technology, building projects, and arts-based activities. This amounted to over a thousand photographs collected, as indicated in Table 3.1. Table 3.1 Number of Photos Taken During the Study March April May June Total Number of photos taken 45 270 533 538 1,386 Because I was not a trained photographer, and this method was new to me, I had to develop ways of deciding which photos were worth taking—what Suchar (1997) called shooting scripts. Shooting scripts provide a structure to field work and photography by requiring the researcher to ask “a series of questions about the subject matter or photo documentary project” (Suchar, 1997, p. 36). The photos taken would then answer or address the shooting script. Examples of my shooting script included: 1. What are the activities (considered the multimodal event) that took place during this block of time (e.g., teaching with technology, playing videos, or re-enacting a scenario)? 88 2. Who is experiencing this literacy activity? 3. What are the modes/materials being used? 4. What is the setting? Many of the photos with Cate, the teacher, captured her in action, such as during her whole-class instruction during literacy activities, her choice and use of digital and non-digital materials, and her meetings with the focal student and his classmates. Theo’s photos were mostly of his independent or group work, his responses and participation during instruction (e.g., facial expressions, body language, and building projects), as well as his engagement with hands-on activities such as technology use and project building. Despite the sheer number of photos, I found that taking photographs of Theo’s technology use was the most difficult due to the actions involved with working on devices, such as swiping through menus, pinching the screen, choosing colors, and so on. As a way to resolve this, I took a series of photos to mimic a stop-motion effect so that, when I scrolled through the photos on the iPod Touch, I could view the actions like a video (see Figure 3.2 for an example). Theo looking at his posts on Fresh Grade, a digital portfolio/assessment system Theo accessing the menu to upload pictures and videos onto Fresh Grade Theo selecting his video for upload Figure 3.2 Example of a set of photos taken during an action sequence (Theo's work on FreshGrade) to mimic a video. 89 3.6.4 Recording Device From my volunteer experience, where I was shuffling between two classrooms and moving around quite a bit in the school, I knew early on that I needed a device that was both portable and multifunctional. For security reasons, I wanted a device I could keep with me as much as possible but also one that would be small enough to put down without taking up too much space from students because I anticipated classroom space would be limited based on my previous experience working with Cate. I chose an iPod Touch for these reasons. The iPod Touch was basically a thinner iPhone without the calling capabilities. It had a voice-recording function that allowed me to record long interviews with an acceptable sound quality as well as enough storage for my photos. I disabled any location services that could possibly track where I was and set up a password to protect the data from security breaches. The photos I took were uploaded onto Workspace, UBC’s secure cloud storage system, for Cate and Theo’s mother’s viewing. The iPod proved to be efficient for transferring files to my laptop safely because I set the iPod to only be recognizable by my laptop, which made it easier to upload onto Workspace. Although Theo did not have access to Workspace, he was invited to look at any of the photos I took if he was interested in seeing them. The size of the iPod allowed me to hand over the device to Theo without any extra maneuvering compared to larger devices like an iPad or a laptop. 3.7 Data Analysis The inductive data analysis for this study occurred during and after data collection. Thomas (2006) wrote that the purpose of inductive analysis is to “use detailed readings of raw data” to allow for findings “to emerge from the frequent, dominant, or significant themes inherent in raw data, without the restraints imposed by structured methodologies” (p. 238). 90 The goal of inductive analysis is to condense the raw data that summarizes the phenomena and experiences under study and draw connections between the research questions and the findings derived from the raw data (Thomas, 2006). The data analysis occurred in multiple phases. Simultaneous data analysis began during the study in March 2018 after my first observation. As I compiled more data from Cate and Theo through scheduled monthly interviews and informal conversations during observations, field notes, and photos, I continued to refine my coding until after data collection concluded, when a formal reorganization of codes into categories was completed to group ideas and themes according to the research questions (Merriam, 1998; Yin, 2014). This was followed by a more intensive analysis after the study ended as a way to triangulate my findings (e.g., compare the photos to the interview data and field notes). For example, when Cate talked about the importance of giving Theo an opportunity to express his interests and learning in a variety of modes, I compared the interview transcripts to my field notes. As I compared the interviews to the field notes, I coded for instances where Theo engaged in multimodal meaning-making practices that spoke to his interests (e.g., working on GarageBand because he enjoyed music) and when he was limited to written work, which he often tried to opt out of doing because he preferred working with visual modes on a device. I then cross referenced my interviews and field notes with the photos to further confirm or reassess my triangulation. I was able to further examine and enrich my analysis if my photos indicated a multimodal event that was not written down in my field notes in full detail. For example, I previously focused on Theo’s facility with technology during my observations. Although he talked about his interest in technology during interviews and conversations, he was not always explaining his reasons other than he liked using iPads and MacBooks. When I reviewed the photos, I realized that 91 his comfort with using the devices and EdModo (a platform that resembled Facebook) also helped him to engage with his peers by posting comments on their work. This process of comparing and triangulating the data continued throughout my writing of this dissertation as well as the subsequent revisions. The cross-referencing of codes from multiple data sources confirmed the identification of categories. The figure below summarizes each stage of data analysis throughout the study. Figure 3.3 Stages of data analysis. After I generated a list of categories and themes, I conducted a member check with Cate as I began writing this dissertation by sending her the list of the themes. I was unable to complete a final member check with Theo like I did with Cate because he moved to another city shortly after the end of the study. It was also difficult for his mother to have continued involvement in the study given her work schedule and relocation. All of the data was loaded into the qualitative data analysis software, NVivo 12, in order to efficiently organize the large amounts of information so that pieces of data could easily be located, analyzed, and reorganized during my multiple stages of analysis (Merriam, 1998). More importantly, the 92 use of NVivo allowed for immediate connections to be made between verbal and written data and the photos taken during this study. 3.7.1 Abductive Analysis with a Theoretical Model Currently, there are no theoretical models that specifically exist for understanding the meaning-making practices of students with LD. To address this gap, I adapted and expanded Perry’s (2012) model of literacy practices. In Perry’s model, literacy practices and literacy events are addressed as well as the function of communication, text features, social purposes of literacy practices, human activity with literacy, and the various sociocultural factors that influence how literacy is mobilized (e.g., beliefs, power relationships, institutions, languages, values, and histories). All of these aspects of literacy were incapsulated in concentric circles nestled within each other. In the expanded model (Figure 3.4), I added teachers’ knowledge, technological pedagogical content knowledge, participation of students, and literacy difficulties to further explore the classroom literacy practices of teachers and students (Artiles, 1998; BC Ministry of Education, 2011; Collins, 2011; Golombek, 1998; Kliewer, Biklen, and Kasa-Hendrickson, 2006; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Instead of seeing literacy practices as concentric circles, I saw the teacher and the student as separate entities with unique knowledge and beliefs about literacy that are connected and patterned by their interactions (Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Kress, 1997; Vygotsky, 1978). 93 Figure 3.4 Model of teacher-student literacy practices during classroom learning. This theoretical model was created after my re-review of the theories that shaped this study at the beginning of writing this dissertation. It became a conceptual framework that helped me to draw connections between the data and the literature through a deductive approach (Freeman & Mathison, 2009). It was important to connect my analysis to extant 94 literature because case study methodology relies on theories to develop categorizations of data and provide meaning to the findings (Meyer, 2001). More importantly, the model helped me to connect seemingly discrete theories about literacy, disability, and teachers’ knowledge to enrich this study and explain literacy practices in a way that can be understood from multiple points of view and disciplines (Agar, 2011). As I maneuvered my data during multiple stages of analysis and refinement throughout the writing process, the theoretical model became a constant framework that helped me to organize and triangulate my findings. My transition between inductive and deductive analysis meant that I applied an abductive approach in a “back-and-forth movement between data, theory, and the purpose and focus of the research” (Freeman & Mathison, 2009, p. 154). I found that I relied more on an abductive approach when I reached the stage of categorical refinement and thematic development during the final analysis. Agar (1996) noted that the goal of abductive reasoning is the “development of new theoretical propositions to account for material that the old propositions didn’t map onto” (p. 35). As I started to combine categories to develop themes, I referred to the model to strengthen my assertions in this dissertation as well as re-examine themes that needed more theoretical support. For example, one of the themes I present in this dissertation is the resistance to Theo’s transmediative practices by his peers and by Cate. I did not anticipate such a finding in the theoretical model and noted a need to include student participation, which I drew from Kliewer et al., 2006, to the model. This addition later contributed to my understanding of the gaps in pedagogical knowledge about multimodality. I did not create this model as a generalization of the literacy practices for all students with LD and their teachers. However, 95 this model captured many of the overlapping themes I found in the literature I reviewed in the previous chapter and the findings from this study. 3.7.2 Coding Interview Data Charmaz (2006) defined coding as the first step toward making analytical interpretations by identifying, sorting, and categorizing key information in “concise terms” (p. 45). I understood coding as “developing the vocabulary needed to tell the story (or multiple stories) of what was happening in the case” (Dyson & Genishi, 2005, p. 84). To begin this process, I reviewed my interviews a few sentences at a time to highlight codes and begin developing categories (or combinations of codes) (Saldaña, 2016). This process also allowed me to identify exact words and key phrases my participants used to describe their experiences. Known as in vivo coding (not to be confused with NVivo the software), this method preserves and honors the participants’ voices and perspectives rather than masks them using researcher-generated keywords that may misconstrue the true meaning of what was conveyed in an interview (Saldaña, 2016). I felt this method of coding was important for the participant interviews and conversations noted during my observations as I sought to better understand their experiences during literacy activities from their perspectives. Charmaz (2006) noted that in vivo coding helps the researcher to “stay close to the data . . . starting from the words and actions of your respondents” (p. 49). Additionally, Saldaña (2016) wrote that in vivo coding can help researchers better understand children’s lives since “coding with their actual words enhances and deepens an adult’s understanding of their cultures and worldviews” (p. 106). For Theo’s interviews, this type of coding would help me better understand how he understood multimodal meaning-making practices and Cate’s instruction. Similarly, I also felt that in vivo coding was applicable toward Cate and her 96 professional knowledge as her words encapsulated years of training, practice, and education toward her teaching practices and her understanding of literacy and LD. For example, as I unpacked her understanding of multimodality in classroom practice, I identified words or phrases that she used repeated (e.g., identity, choice, combination of layers, flexibility, multiple entry points, etc.) as well as examples from her teaching experiences (i.e., the human body project that came up in multiple interviews and conversations). Although NVivo was a helpful data analysis software to compile interview transcriptions, written field notes, photos, and codes, I found it a bit clumsy to use when it was time to write my dissertation. After an initial attempt at using the tables and concept maps I generated from NVivo from my codes, I turned to Microsoft Word to create tables that helped me reference key information more quickly. The transition between NVivo to Microsoft Word afforded me the opportunity to revisit my data during the dissertation writing process, which allowed me to further refine my codes, cross-reference extant literature, and organize my themes. Table 3.2 is an example of how I organized my interview codes into Microsoft Word. If an in vivo code was succinct and clear enough, I left it as its own code during the analysis without generating another term. On the other hand, I created a code to summarize key lines of interview data that did not have an in vivo code. Table 3.2 Examples of Codes, Categories, Sub-Themes, and Themes from Interview Data In Vivo Codes Researcher Codes Categories Sub-Themes Themes Theoretical Model (Figure 3.4) Research Questions Build his confidence Sense of accomplishment Positive socioemotional outcomes Learning goals Meeting learning needs with multimodality Knowledge about the student RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices 97 Not a grand conversation Difficulties with implementation Misconceptions about multimodality Understanding about multimodality Pedagogical knowledge and perceptions about multimodality Professional knowledge RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices I love the music, rhythm, and beats Interest in music Preferences with modes Creative freedom and modal affordances Transmediation and affordances Knowledge about meaning-making RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices With Fresh Grade, I think the limiting piece is because it’s digital. Limitations Constraints of technology Technology as a distraction Barrier to productivity Literacy difficulties RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices Once I finished coding the interview transcriptions, I reviewed them again to start organizing my codes according to their connections with the research questions. This process entailed (a) reducing the in vivo codes into shorter terms to highlight the most pertinent information from segments of interview data (Eaves, 2001) and (b) identifying codes that could be grouped by common themes with pattern coding (Saldaña, 2016). From these pattern codes in my second round of analysis, commonalities began to emerge that allowed me to group the codes into categories (Creswell, 2002). After my initial categorization of codes, I reviewed the categories again to see if I could further condense the number of categories that aligned with my research questions (Saldaña, 2016). I also reviewed the interview transcripts again for “overlap and redundancy among the categories” (Creswell, 2002, p. 266). Throughout this process, I continued to refine my coding system and find “appropriate quotations that convey the core theme or essence of a category” (Thomas, 2006, p. 242). It was clear that some categories were representing broader topics (e.g., learning 98 goals in Table 3.2) and I saw these as sub-themes that would eventually help me develop the broader themes for the study (Vaismoradi, Jones, Turunen, & Snelgrove, 2016). 3.7.3 Coding Field Notes Marvasti (2014) wrote that an inductive analysis of field notes requires moving from “the specific to the general, where the general would represent a concrete and objective finding that is logically and empirically backed by the analysis” (p. 360). Corwin and Clemens (2012) suggested a multi-step system for analyzing field notes: (a) initial data analysis to begin coding and identifying major themes, (b) detailed coding to “narrow” the analysis and “make it applicable to the literature” (p. 498), and (c) theme identification in the entire collection of field notes. In order to code my field notes using the NVivo software, I typed up my handwritten notes as entries first. I coded my field notes using a system similar to that of Gibbs (2007), where I identified specific behaviors, events, activities, practices, objects, settings, and relationships associated with multimodal instruction and practices for my participants. These field notes were also coded according to my research questions. Unlike in my analysis of the interviews, in vivo codes were used less frequently in my analysis of my field notes unless I noted specific words or phrases my participants used during informal conversations that I wrote down as part of my observations. Similar to the interview data, I reorganized the codes from my field notes in Microsoft Word for faster access while writing this dissertation in order to begin developing categories, sub-themes, and themes. Table 3.3 is an example of how I coded my field notes using an observation I conducted on April 16, 2018: The class is listening to “The Jerry Cans Live from the Arctic” music video. Cate is trying to use the 360 degree view on YouTube but it keeps stalling a bit every time 99 she tries to change the angle. Theo calls out a few times during the video commenting on it stalling. Despite the tech issues, the class really enjoyed the video because of the song and the scenes depicting the daily lives and practices of Indigenous people. Table 3.3 Examples of Initial Codes for the April 16, 2018 Observation Researcher Codes Categories Sub-Themes Themes Research Question Music video Digital media Teaching with multimodal texts Pedagogical knowledge and perceptions about multimodality RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices 360-degree view Digital media Experimenting with different modes Pedagogical knowledge and perceptions about multimodality RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices Indigenous/First Nations music Student interest Exploring identity and choice Pedagogical knowledge and perceptions about multimodality RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices Video stalls Limitations with tech Constraints of using district technological resources Barriers to implementation RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices Calling out Distracted behavior A giant disaster zone Barriers to implementation RQ2: Student’s engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices Class enjoyed the video Student interest Building a class community Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices Songs and scenes depicting daily lives of Indigenous people Expository multimodal texts Teaching with multimodal texts Professional knowledge RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices 100 During my data analysis, I also codified patterns of behavior. For example, in Table 3.3, “calling out” refers to one of Theo’s patterns where he would get distracted during instruction, leading Cate or another adult in the classroom to redirect his attention. (This pattern became part of a larger theme of Theo’s where he would call out to feel like part of the community but instead elicited a negative reaction [e.g., a rebuke] from Cate and his peers.) Theo’s distraction contributed to Cate’s perception of technology as a potential source of distraction and disruption during instruction—a limitation, in her mind, of instruction with technology and multimodal texts. I also maintained a similar table format for my field notes and my interview data so that I could easily compare them to help me triangulate my findings as well as refine my codes, categories, sub-themes, and themes that they applied to both sets of data. From my observational data, I also began creating categories that were not necessarily discussed during the interview data. For example, although Cate initially spoke positively of using multiple modes in her instructional activities, I generated a number of codes in my field notes that addressed Theo being limited to print as a primary mode. When I compared categories from the interview data (e.g., Cate talking about holding Theo accountable to his written work) and the photographic data (Theo struggling to write about his projects), I was able to see the pattern of interrupting Theo’s multimodal meaning-making practices with print-based work. This eventually led to identifying a more salient sub-theme of Theo’s practices being met with resistance, which eventually informed the larger theme of how his transmediative practices were being perceived by Cate and Theo’s peers. 101 3.7.4 Qualitative Content Analysis of Photographs I analyzed my photos using qualitative content analysis drawing from Rose’s (2016) methods of compiling, selecting, coding, and categorizing visual data. Content analysis can be used with a variety of data (e.g., interviews and media); however, in the context of this study, I refer to content analysis as strictly for the photographic data only. This method is a “strongly rule-based procedure for reducing large amounts of data” (Flick, 2014, p. 378). Rose (106) added that the rules must be rigorously followed for the “analysis of images or texts to be reliable” (p. 85). The starting point of content analysis is to consider how the method addresses the “essential aspects of the research question” (Flick, 2014, p. 381). For this study, the essential aspects were Cate’s implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices and Theo’s engagement with multimodality during literacy activities. In Chapter 2, I noted that classroom literacy practices comprised of both visible and invisible aspects. With the photographs, I sought to capture the visible aspects of multimodal meaning-making practices, including the modes were used during instruction (e.g., print, movies, and images.). I also needed to further explore what was considered to be engagement on the part of Theo. For example, there was a limitation in writing about Theo’s collaborations with his peers in my field notes. The photos helped me to capture other details such as facial expressions, body language, and physical distance after I utilized a social semiotics framework to analyze the photos. Paired with the field notes and interviews, I inferred power relationships between Theo and his peers, his knowledge about multimodal meaning-making, and his disposition towards the activities (e.g., boredom during written work versus excitement while using Bloxels and his reasoning). As such, my purpose for taking these photos was to enrich the field notes and interview data as well as to provide a visual of the 102 multimodal meaning-making activities that took place during literacy instruction, including the interactions between Cate and Theo, to deepen my interpretations of the data. Due to the rapport I had with Cate and Theo, I also needed to reduce bias and the potential to “[search] through images in order only to confirm” preconceived notions I had about my study based on my other forms of data (Rose, 2016, p. 87). Qualitative content analysis is comprised of four key steps that are discussed in detail in this section (Rose, 2016): 1. Image selection 2. Developing categories for coding 3. Coding the images for themes and patterns 4. Analyzing the results 18.104.22.168 Image Selection. From my photos, I needed to determine which ones could be used for coding and analysis and ultimately shrink my data set into something more manageable. My first step in reducing the number of photos was to remove ones that were out of focus and the images that were too large to see finer details. Other photos that were removed were ones where Theo or Cate did not make prominent appearances. The most common occurrence of this was if they were captured in the corner of an image of the full class; their interaction in the picture would have been too small to fully analyze. The final criterion was removing photos that had neither Cate or Theo but were taken to reconstruct the day, which, at the time of the data analysis, had already been completed in the field notes. I often prioritized writing my field notes first before taking photos; however, there were instances when it was easier to take the photo first and revise my field notes later. For example, if Cate needed my help ensuring Theo stayed focus on his work, I quickly took a 103 photo of him during the literacy activity and put aside my field notes to guide him through his work until it was an appropriate time to return to writing my notes. I also had to separate photos of instructional activities from photos that I took in place of artifact collection, such as Cate’s instructions on the board, her curriculum materials, and Theo’s class work. These artifacts were renamed in NVivo to clearly identify them as separate from photos taken of the instructional activity. Although my participants did not take photos for me as part of this study, there were a couple of photos that Theo took to document the completion of his final projects. These photos were also separated and labeled as belonging to Theo, which I uploaded onto Workspace to share with his mother. After reducing the number of images, there was still a lot of what Rose (2016) called “variation”—a whole range of literacy activities captured in each day’s photos. Since the photos were collected during specific blocks of the day according to Cate’s schedule, such as Daily 5 for English Language Arts, writing, and social studies, I grouped the photos as subsets according to that specific time, with the understanding that Theo’s engagement with Cate’s instruction depended on the context. For example, learning objectives were different for each subject taught by Cate, and the instructional materials changed throughout the day, affecting how Theo responded to Cate’s instruction. 104 Figure 3.5 Cate's schedule on the board for May 8, 2018. Using as an example the schedule for May 8, 2018, shown in Figure 3.5, the photos I took during the morning session of the Daily 5 (i.e., “D5 1” in Figure 3.5) were considered their own subset because the material covered during that time was specific to the teaching and learning objectives for literacy instruction. Activities during that time could have been reading groups, vocabulary learning, or completion of self-assessment pieces, and they often differed from activities done in afternoon time, during which outstanding work was sometimes completed or writing was taught. The afternoon session included the class read aloud and social studies (“Socials” in Figure 3.5), which included different texts, projects, instructions on the board, and materials used by students. Within each of these subsets, I then further reduced the number of images by using a systematic approach in which I kept every third picture I took to represent my sample from 105 the day’s collection of photos (Rose, 2016). A systematic approach requires a random number to be used to select the photos; selecting every third photo worked to reduce the photos but still generate a large enough data set to fully exemplify the multimodal meaning-making practices within that subset. Although there was a significant number of photos to work with, I also needed to be careful that I “preserve[d] the essential content” (Kohlbacher, 2006, Methods and Procedures, para. 2). Choosing every third photo to analyze resulted in a varied enough sample of photos without repeating the same content (e.g., capturing the same iPad app in most of the photos). 22.214.171.124 Developing Categories for Coding. Rose (2016) stressed that this stage of category development for codes is the most crucial since it informs the rest of the data analysis with the photos. I returned to my codes from the transcribed interviews and the field notes to develop a preliminary list of categories, which was also part of my “feedback loop” (Mayring, 2000) to ensure that I was finding coherence between the different forms of data. In total, I had about 40 initial categories of coding; however, not all were conducive to framing the analysis of the photos (i.e., “curriculum change” from the interview data codes). Some of my more relevant categories for the photos are explained in Table 3.4 on the following page. Table 3.4 Examples of Categories from the Content Analysis of Photographs Category Description Research Question Content area reading/viewing This category was generated from my field notes for activities that featured expository texts (e.g., Scholastic articles, interviews with Ai Weiwei, videos about sustainability, etc.) RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices Curricular expectations This category was generated from my observations of activities where print was heavily featured as opposed to multimodality (e.g., scribing notes, RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices 106 focusing on reading and writing activities, completing FreshGrade posts, etc.). These activities were called “grade level expectations” because Theo’s multimodal meaning-making practices were often disrupted by his difficulties completing Grade 4/5 academic work as noted by Cate in her interviews. Teacher collaborations This category was created from the interviews with Cate, who talked about the importance of collaborating with teachers, and my observations of her working with a guest teacher in her classroom. Theo built a strong rapport with the guest teacher as well, further highlighting the importance of this category. RQ1: Implementation of meaning-making practices Classroom community This category was derived from my field notes where I noticed a pattern of Cate organizing the class into small groups even during whole-class instruction (e.g., talking to groupmates at the table and looking at texts with a partner). RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices Hands-on creations This category was derived from my observations of Theo completing projects that highlighted his multimodal meaning-making practices (e.g., his completed pulley from the simple machines unit). RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices Responding to texts This category was created from my field notes and interviews with Cate about the importance of having Theo (and his peers) respond to the multimodal texts she used during her instruction (e.g., writing a paragraph, talking to a peer, drawing a picture, taking notes, etc.). RQ2: Student’s engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices 126.96.36.199 Coding the Photos. Content analysis alone is not sufficient as a methodology for deriving meaning from photos (Bell, 2004; Gluck, 1998). Manning and Cullum-Swan (1994) wrote that a shortcoming of content analysis is that it is unable to capture contexts of the data, which is why Rose and Mayring’s frameworks were needed for my analysis. Context can be provided by “fitting the material into a model of communication,” especially with regard to the text production, its sociocultural background, and the message itself (Mayring, 2000, Basic Ideas of Content Analysis, para. 2). Rose’s (2016) site of production focuses on how the visuals were produced through the 107 technological modality (how the visual was made), compositional modality (the genre of the visual and the spatial arrangement) and social modality (the creator of the visual, the intended audience, and the reasons why the visual was made) (Rose, 2016, p. 25). Table 3.5 summarizes how I applied Rose’s site of production to interpret the photographs. Table 3.5 Application of Rose's Site of Production on the Photographs Description of Photograph Technological Modality (how the visual was made) Compositional Modality (the genre of the visual) Social Modality (the creator, the intended audience, purpose of the visual) Theo working with two students at a long rectangular table with paper spread out in front of them. Photographed during an observation of group activities. Student group photo Photographed by the researcher and shared with Cate and Theo’s mother. Photo was taken to capture group collaborative activities and document the technology being used (iPads and Bloxels) Theo’s Post-It Note (pink) for his learning goals for the next time he works on Bloxels: “Next time we will do stage 2 then Tuesday we will do stage 3.” Photographed at the end of a Bloxels activity. Artifacts (e.g., projects, assignments, and notes) produced by Theo Photographed by the researcher and shared with Cate and Theo’s mother. Photo was taken to document Theo’s work during Theo looking over Vincent’s shoulder on the iPad with Gareth. The screen is on the Bloxels “design” mode. Photographed during an observation of group activities. Student group photo Photographed by the researcher and shared with Cate and Theo’s mother. Photo was taken to capture group collaborative activities and document the technology being used (iPads and Bloxels) Theo is standing behind a seated Cynthia (her back is to him) as he is talking to her. Photographed during an observation of individual activity. Peer interaction photo Photographed by the researcher and shared with Cate (the photo did not necessarily convey a positive interaction and was not shared with Theo’s mother). Took the photo to document the technology being 108 used (iPads and Bloxels). Cate sits next to Theo to look over his written work in the duotang. Her hand is on his work as she scribes for him. He watches her as she writes on his notes. Photographed during an observation of Cate reviewing Theo’s work with him. Individual instruction photo Photographed by the researcher and shared with Cate and Theo’s mother. Took the photo to document the written work expected of Theo during Daily 5 activities. Mayring (2000) noted that inductive analysis is used in qualitative content analysis “to develop the aspects of interpretation, the categories, as near as possible to the material, to formulate them in terms of the material” as well as to enrich the research questions the content seeks to explain (Inductive Category Development, para. 2). After developing a framework for organizing my photos, I needed a way to translate the visual components of the photo into codes so that I could triangulate the content analysis with the analysis of the field notes and interviews. Because my focus was on multimodality as integral to literacy practices in the classroom, I drew from social semiotics to more accurately describe multiple aspects of a photo, including the people and their relationships with each other, the setting, the objects being used, and the actions taking place (Barthes, 1977; Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996; Ledin & Machin, 2018). For my photos, I looked at representational meanings (people, places, and things depicted), narrative structures (actions of the participants), and salience (eye-catching elements) (Jewitt & Oyama, 2011). These social semiotic features helped me to answer the key questions researchers should ask of the photos (Rose, 2016): • What is the photo showing or depicting? • What are the components (e.g., people, objects, and space) in the photo, and how are they arranged? • What is the focal point in the photo, or what is the eye drawn to, and why? • What are the relationships between people and their interactions in the photo? 109 Suchar (1997) added that, after selecting the photos, it is important to begin the process of “identifying concepts or categories in the photograph” through open coding, which summarizes units of information that can be retrieved as part of the data analysis (p. 38). In my study, this allowed for the visual elements of the photographs to be analyzed with the textual information from the field notes and interviews. To facilitate this process, I wrote out descriptions for the photos I had selected for analysis and summarized what was happening in each photo (e.g., “working with technology,” “Cate’s direct instruction with the whole class,” “Theo working in a small group,” “Theo being exhausted during literacy,” “the classroom setting”). I then used the information in my field notes to supplement the information in the photos. For example, in addition to a photo, my field notes might have detailed the general mood of an activity, such as Theo’s group being particularly quiet rather than engaging in discussion as Cate expected. Another example would be my field notes indicating that Theo was working by himself but not necessarily following the directions that Cate had given to him. Photos were then coded using NVivo. Mayring (2000) noted that this process of coding and categorizing requires a “feedback loop” in which categories are revised and “reduced to main categories” (Inductive Category Development, para. 3). The codes and categories generated from this content analysis served to identify themes and patterns in Cate and Theo’s literacy practices. In order to apply social semiotics to the qualitative content analysis, I needed to consider how I was “describing semiotic resources” in my codes (Jewitt & Oyama, 2011, p. 134). However, I needed the categories from my interview and observational data because they draw from other theories. Jewitt and Oyama (2011) pointed out that visual social semiotics is not enough to explain what is happening in 110 the photos. Similar to the coding of my interview and field notes data, I created a table on Microsoft Word to compile the codes, categories, and themes that emerged. 188.8.131.52 Analyzing the Photos. Flick (2014) wrote that the final step of qualitative analysis consists of codes and categories being re-evaluated in order to understand how they address the research questions. Mayring (2000) also suggested comparing the analysis to the original material (the photos in this case) to reassess the categorization of the codes. I completed this process by using the photos I shared with Theo’s mother. That set of photos served to inform Theo’s mother of what happened during his school day. They were purposely selected to represent his different activities within Cate’s schedule. The collection I shared with Theo’s mother was also a smaller set, but they helped me to cross-reference my coding in a more efficient manner than returning to photos that were already coded with NVivo. For my photos, I looked at representational meanings (people, places, and things depicted), narrative structures (actions of the participants), and salience (eye-catching elements, especially in multimodal texts) (Jewitt & Oyama, 2011). These social semiotic features helped me to answer the key questions researchers should ask of the photos as well as address what classroom literacy practices and forms of engagement took place between Cate and Theo. Table 3.6 Examples of Codes and Categories from the Qualitative Content Analysis of Photos Categories from Data People Place Actions Materials Academic difficulties Theo Rainbow table, back of the room Confused/distracted facial expression. Looking at class instead of work. Scholastic article, pencil in hand. 111 Accomplishment Theo, two preschoolers (little buddies [LB]) Library, sitting at a large table by themselves All three focused on book. Theo is sitting in the middle. One LB has his arms crossed. The other LB is gripping the chair watching Theo. Children’s book with red and blue pictures Content area reading and viewing Cate Classroom facing Cate’s desk and smaller whiteboard Cate is mid-speech; looking down at the laptop MacBook, projector, speakers, whiteboard, video Curricular expectations Cate (back to camera) Front of the class, facing large whiteboard Cate writes instructions on the board about FreshGrade reflections; key questions about thinking and using proof to support ideas; text heavy Whiteboard, instructions in red, blue, and black marker, covers the length and width of the board Responding to texts Theo Back row of desks by the windows Theo’s hand is on his written work, looks at another student’s worksheet. Duotang, White Water worksheets Viewing and observing Cate, Theo Park, on the bridge over the stream Cate holding the wooden fence in mid-speech; T is looking at the trees behind Cate. iPads 3.7.5 Memo Writing Throughout the study, I engaged in memo-writing as a way of collecting my ideas and thoughts about the coding process as well as conceptualizing the data (Charmaz, 2006; Flick, 2014). Corbin and Strauss (1990) suggested that memo-writing can also contribute to the “formulation of theory and its revision during the research process” (p. 422). Additionally, the memo-writing helped me to reflect on my data in terms of my own feelings, beliefs, dynamics with my participants, decisions about coding, and any emergent themes or patterns that unfolded during my analysis (Jones & Alony, 2011; Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2013). During the data analysis, memo-writing helped me to keep track of why some categories and sub-themes were brought together as an overall theme. I often used memos to make note of how the sub-themes and themes answered the research questions and 112 if they did not, what aspects of the data were relevant to the study. For example, although there was limited literacy instruction during mathematics time, I made note of the multimodal meaning-making practices that Cate employed. She briefly talked about helping the students find ways to represent mathematical concepts without numbers and writing, but I did not have enough observational and interview data to justify creating categories and sub-themes from the mathematics instruction. Instead, I wrote memos to myself about how to connect Cate’s perspective about teaching math to her broader understanding of multimodality. I used my memos to help me connect outlier information back to my research questions. 3.8 Final Stage of Data Analysis During the final stages of the data analysis and after triangulating my data, I created a table to keep track of how I transitioned from codes to categories to sub-themes and finally to themes (see Table 3.7). At this point, I already established my final categories (e.g., academic difficulties, teaching needs, limitations of multimodal texts, etc.) from multiple rounds of coding across all data sources. In order to generate sub-themes, I went through a process of organizing similar categories together and noting which categories were difficult to group (Vaismoradi, Jones, Turunen, & Snelgrove, 2016). With the outlier categories, I sought to find ways to explain why they did not necessarily fit together. Some categories were reanalyzed by the codes to confirm if they were indeed outliers or mislabeled. During this stage of the analysis, the codes and categories encompassed all three forms of data sources in this study and I was developing sub-themes and themes that spoke to the overall findings as they related to the research questions. 113 I also used this table to organize my findings for each research question in Chapters 4 and 5. By this phase of the analysis, it was evident that some categories became sub-themes that best captured multiple aspects of a theme. I also combined sub-themes into one standalone theme, but not every theme in the final analysis included sub-themes (Vaismoradi et al., 2016). Table 3.7 Examples of Codes, Categories, Sub-Themes, and Themes from the Final Analysis Codes Categories Sub-Themes Themes Theoretical Model (Figure 3.4) Research Questions “Difficulties across the board academically” Academic difficulties Learning goals Meeting learning needs and goals with multimodality Knowledge about the student RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices “[Teachers] having confidence in teaching with multimodal resources” Teaching needs Understanding about multimodality Pedagogical knowledge and perceptions about multimodality Professional knowledge RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices Supporting ideas with proof from text Expository texts Teaching with multimodal texts Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices Beliefs about literacy RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices Difficulties modifying Discovery Education Techbook Limitations of multimodal texts Lack of options Barriers of implementation Professional knowledge RQ1: Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices 114 Enjoys reading books about animals because of his father’s interests Student interests Choices and preferences Theo as a learner Sense of community RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices Struggles to follow Cate’s instruction about activists artists during whole-class instruction Viewing/ reading print Engagement during whole-class instruction Demonstrating communicative competence with print Literacy difficulties RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices Navigates Discovery Education Techbook with little trouble Strengths with technology Individual competency with multimodal texts Meaning-making practices beyond print Knowledge about meaning-making RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices Theo’s partner takes away iPad during Bloxels Dynamics with peers Competence and resistance Transmediation and affordances with creating multimodal texts Participation during literacy activities RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices Gravitating towards a device when “he’s stuck” during writing Written work Technology as a distraction Barriers to productivity Participation during literacy activities RQ2: Engagement with multimodal meaning-making practices As research methodologists noted, transitioning from codes to themes is a murky, abstract, and often unclear process (Jonsen & Jehn, 2009; Mathison, 1998). The themes were constantly revised and reworded to avoid having too many themes, but I also wanted to make sure I had enough categories to indicate a theme was somewhat sound or accurate. I found that using the theoretical model (Figure 3.4) provided clarity on how the theories and literature confirmed the themes. It was also a way for me to incorporate Cate’s perspective during the final member check with Figure 3.4 into the final analysis. 115 3.9 Evaluation of the Research as a Single Case Study The quality of my study was evaluated using Mertens and McLaughlin’s (2004) framework for researching students with disabilities, who are often viewed as a marginalized and vulnerable population of children. Mertens and McLaughlin drew on their work as well as the work of qualitative research methodologists (Guba & Lincoln, 1989) to develop a set of criteria that speaks to the quality of case study research. In this section, I address the credibility of my research in terms of the length of persistent observations and substantial engagement with the participants; member checks and triangulation; transferability; as well as researcher subjectivity and reflexivity. 3.9.1 Length of Observations and Substantial Engagement The length of this study was shortened from six months to three and a half months due to delays (prolonged ethics approval between UBC and the school district, unanswered inquiries by the principal to enter the school, and waiting for consent forms to be completed). As such, I needed to maximize the number of visits to Cate’s classroom. The number of observations per week (i.e., three to five visits) and the length of time spent in the classroom during each visit (i.e., three to six hours) allowed me to collect enough data to reveal repeating themes and patterns. These consistent observation sessions and the long periods of time spent in Cate and Theo’s classroom allowed me to observe “long enough to identify salient issues” (Mertens & McLaughlin, 2004, p. 105). During this time, I developed positive working relationships with both Cate and Theo, which helped to facilitate conversations about multimodal meaning-making practices. This amount of time spent in the classroom also allowed me to collect information about the classroom community, as well as the ebb 116 and flow of their daily activities, to contextualize my study because I often stayed long enough to experience nearly a full day’s schedule. 3.9.2 Member Checks and Triangulation of Data I addressed validity through data triangulation and member checks as well as through ensuring the duration of my observations was long enough to capture important information. Hammersley (1992) defines validity as “the accurate representation of features of a phenomenon that an account is intended to describe, explain, or theorize” (p. 258). I first addressed validity through data triangulation, which requires the use of multiple forms of data and tools to study the unit of analysis, which was framed as what Cate and Theo were doing during literacy activities (Mathison, 1988). This was achieved by collecting interview data, writing field notes, and taking photos of both Cate and Theo’s experiences with multimodal instruction. I also scheduled visits with Cate to ensure I observed different facets of her instruction. For example, I observed Theo and Cate reading in groups, writing with the Bloxels application, researching on Discovery Education, and building simple machines. This data triangulation allowed me to collect a range of experiences with multimodality in different contexts of literacy instruction. Member checks also played a crucial role in preserving internal validity. I conducted member checks with my participants throughout and after the study to ensure their experiences were being represented accurately in my interpretation of the data (Schwandt, 2007). Kvale (2006) notes that member checks can “attempt to reduce [researchers’] dominance over their research subjects by giving their interpretations back to the interviewees for validation” (p. 485). This was particularly important when working with Theo because he was a student. I often checked in with Theo by asking him clarification 117 questions about his work and his interests. During interviews, I also occasionally paraphrased what he said to me, explained my observations, and asked if he agreed with what I said. I was not able to read the interviews back to Theo because of the limited time I had with him (15 minutes per interview) and he was expected to be due back to class promptly to rejoin his peers. Theo occasionally took an interest in looking at some of the photos I took but otherwise, he preferred to continue with his activity during the observation and subsequently, I did not ask him to review the photos with me. If he expressed an interest to see a photo I took, I let him see it quickly without interrupting his work. With Cate, member checks often occurred informally in conversation during breaks in our observations (e.g., recess, lunch time, after school), but they also occurred more formally during scheduled interviews. After the initial stages of analysis, I also held a post-study interview with Cate during which we reviewed her experiences over the course of the study. Interviews, in particular, played a large role in member checks as experiences were revisited and clarification questions were discussed (Roulston, 2010). I kept in contact with Cate during the writing of this dissertation and checked in with her if I was representing her experiences properly, especially when constructing the theoretical model of literacy practices (Figure 3.4) and developing the categories and themes at the initial stages of writing this dissertation. As I mentioned earlier, I was unable to complete a final member check with Theo like I did with Cate because he moved to another city and his mother had limited time for continued involvement with the study. Consistent processing of my data through explicating and refining codes also enhanced trustworthiness in my study (Barbour, 2014). The process of coding and re-coding helped me to reduce bias in the representation of the data and the participants (Charmaz, 118 2006). As I noted in the previous section about data analysis, I completed data triangulation by comparing the codes and categories derived from the field notes, interviews, and content analysis of the photos. There were some themes that were consistent across all three forms of data (observations, interviews, and photos), such as Cate’s effort to build a classroom community. However, there were occasions where I noted contrasting experiences between Cate and Theo as a form of contradiction in my data (Mathison, 1988). For example, when Cate mentioned she thought technology was a distraction for Theo, I observed Theo being productive working on Toontastic or the Discovery Education Techbook. The photos then captured his proficiency and engagement with each of these applications, further suggesting he was not necessarily distracted. During my initial coding process, I conducted an inductive analysis to allow codes and categories to emerge from the data and the participants’ perspectives. As I compared my data during the triangulation process and subsequently began to write this dissertation, I used a deductive approach to compare my findings from the raw data with the sociocultural and literacy theories that frame this study (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). For example, for Cate’s beliefs about LD, I referred to literature about teacher perceptions about disabilities. After my initial coding and analysis, I proceeded to generate themes and more abstract concepts from my findings by grouping together categories that spoke to similar ideas as a form of data convergence (Mathison, 1988). Because I drew from multiple theories for this study, I referred to Figure 3.4, the theoretical model about literacy practices from the previous chapter, to help me organize and align the themes with the broader theories that Cate helped me to review at the end of the study when I conducted a member check with her. At this stage of thematic triangulation, I was looking for ways to connect to theory. 119 3.9.3 Transferability Transferability is also associated with external validity according to Guba and Lincoln (1989), who write about generalizing results of a study to other situations. Mertens and McLaughlin (2004) note that this requires the researcher to write “extensive and careful description of the time, place, context, and culture” (p. 107). Throughout the study, I gathered as much information through observations and interviews as I could about my participants and the school as well as the neighborhood, especially because part of Cate’s instruction with her students involved changes in the local community. As I noted earlier, replication of this study would be difficult due to the limited number of participants and the unique circumstances of Cate and Theo. However, through the layers of description in this dissertation, other readers of this study may be able to “determine how similar their own conditions” are compared to my study (p. 107) and generalize appropriately. 3.9.4 Reflexivity and Relationality Due to this study being qualitative in nature, I acknowledged the social construction of data in my study through reflexivity and relationality. Hall and Callery (2001) defined reflexivity as addressing “the influence of investigator-participant interactions on the research process” and relationality as addressing the “power and trust relationships between participants and researchers” (p. 258). With these concepts in mind, I constantly questioned my role as the researcher during the data collection and analysis. In terms of reflexivity, I recognized that, despite my goal of highlighting my participants’ experiences and perspectives, it was also my role to interpret their actions, words, and intentions and determine what information would be featured in this study. To mitigate bias, I kept a journal of my reflexive notes during the course of my study, including my feelings of being in the 120 classroom as well as issues and tensions that occurred during the data collection. My memo-writing also contributed to my reflexivity as a researcher, especially during the post-study data analysis when I was no longer seeing my participants regularly. In terms of relationality, I acknowledged that I was a researcher without a disability studying a young student who was seen as having a disability (Sullivan, 2009). I never had some of the experiences that Theo encountered because I was not seen as a student with a disability in my academic history. I became interested in my research topic because of my previous experiences as a classroom teacher, but I also recognized that the identity of Theo as a learner was greatly dependent on how adults perceived him. Theo simply being associated with the LD designation would conjure up notions of ability and academic achievement (Hacking & Hacking, 1999). This would include how I interpreted his experiences and how I decided to represent his knowledge in this study despite working closely with the data to reduce my own preconceived notions of his literacy learning. Consequently, I also needed to confront my own beliefs about disability and childhood and focus on Theo’s experiences rather than my own knowledge and theoretical lens. For example, as a former classroom teacher from Massachusetts during the height of standardized testing, I was expected to follow specific instructional protocols to address the needs of students with LD. There was one student, in particular, who was labeled as being a “very low” reader. When I let him borrow a large non-fiction book about pigs (to the horror of the principal, who suggested more leveled books), he was delighted. He explained to me I let him pick something he liked rather than choosing for him. These experiences in the classroom made me realize the importance of letting the students have a chance to talk about their learning rather than assume their disabilities hamper their experiences. The student 121 from my own fourth grade classroom, Sam from the pilot study, and Theo in this dissertation study were all seen as having a LD, but their experiences and perceptions of themselves as learners varied greatly. 3.10 Role of the Researcher in the Classroom and Reciprocity Upon entering the classroom for the first time, Cate and I agreed that I would be introduced as a guest or a volunteer helper that was completing a project to learn more about teaching from Cate. (However, I was introduced to other teachers, the educational assistants, and guests to the classroom as a researcher from UBC.) As a volunteer helper, I fulfilled a reciprocal role in the study in which there were mutual benefits and trust between my participants and me as I gained access to information from my research site, the classroom, and the narratives of my participants (Diver & Higgins, 2014; Harrison, MacGibbon, & Morton, 2001; Trainor & Bouchard, 2013). As a form of reciprocity, I also shared my photos with Theo if he wanted to see them as well as Cate and Theo’s parents through Workspace as way of helping them to keep track of Theo’s progress during literacy activities. For Cate, this helped her retrieve any information that was easily lost (e.g., instructions and prompts written on the board). For Theo and his parents, they became memorable tokens since he moved to a new school after the end of the study. My role to the other students in class was as Ms. Chang, and they accepted me into the fold and allowed me to observe their work and interactions. As a participant observer, I was involved in many of the students’ activities, such as joining them during Little Buddies reading time, when Cate’s class read to preschoolers from the nearby Montessori preschool, or helping the students with their work and keeping them on task. This became expected of 122 me because it seemed strange to the students when I was not helping them in their own classroom space. I also acknowledge that there was a dualistic nature to being both researcher and helper in the classroom. While gathering data as a researcher was my main priority during my classroom visits, I also switched and became “Ms. Chang, the helper” by making sure Theo was focusing on his work or helping him to follow directions. I tried to support Cate after her direct instruction by making sure Theo and his classmates followed the procedures she outlined, especially if time was limited and the students were expected to get assignments and projects completed. As I wrote in my field notes on multiple occasions, I sometimes felt conflicted about this helper role because, at times, Cate explained a task one way, and I interpreted it another. On occasion, Cate clarified to me what she was expecting of her students so that I could help them more efficiently. In the classroom, I was also involved with management issues, such as addressing conflicts and making sure students were paying attention. Mostly, I tried to support Cate by upholding the classroom decorum she expected of her students. Although I was a former teacher, familiar with classroom management and gentle speech to students about their behavior, I was a bit more hesitant and uncomfortable with the role as “guest” in Cate’s classroom despite our partnership throughout the study. As I wrote in my field notes, I was not always comfortable being in the middle, but this position was unavoidable given the dynamics between students and adults in general. Even though I was concerned that this compromised my position as a guest researcher in the classroom, this did not seem to affect my rapport with Theo’s classmates. I also respected students’ level of engagement with me. For the students who were not as talkative with them, I tried to give them more personal 123 space. (Other roles were less problematic to me, such as serving as the “informational technology person,” helping students with devices and applications.) My roles with Theo also evolved over the course of the study. I explained to Theo from the start that I was learning more about teaching from Cate, who chose Theo to be part of the project. When he gave his assent to participate, he understood that this was a project, and I would be gathering information about his learning. Although this seemed like a more formal dynamic between Theo and me, his friendly nature meant he also viewed me as a trusted adult with whom he could talk about his day or share his troubles. For example, on one occasion in May, while Theo was building his simple machine and I was helping him, he turned around and told me he was worried about his parents’ “friendship” and wanted them to argue less. This came out as natural conversation for Theo, but I was left feeling uncomfortable. Cate, who was in earshot, turned to let Theo know these conversations should be held quietly and confidentially. Despite some uncomfortable moments, I felt this research dynamic worked well for the three of us, especially as we got to know each other better throughout the study. 3.11 Chapter Summary In this chapter, I outlined the case study research design and data collection method, the steps taken to prepare for the study, and the data analysis process. I understood case study as a collection of my participants’ interpretations of their experiences, and my role in this case study is to explore their classroom literacy practices through observations and field notes, semi-structured interviews, and photo documentation. I described in detail my participants and the setting of the study as well as my pilot research experience with the teacher participant in this study. 124 Data collection for this study consisted of observations and field notes, semi-structured interviews, and photo documentation. The observations of multimodal events were important because I was able to witness Cate and Theo’s engagement with meaning-making practices. The semi-structured interviews with both participants helped me to better understand their multimodal meaning-making practices (e.g., beliefs and attitudes about literacy and multimodality). Finally, the photo documentation provided more context and information about specific modes being used during literacy instruction. I analyzed the data using inductive and deductive analysis to transition from codes to categories and finally to the themes I discuss further in the next chapter about Cate’s literacy practices with Theo. Agar (1996) called this transition between inductive and deductive analysis as abductive reasoning to identify emerging concepts in the data that do not easily align with existing theoretical frameworks. In the early stages of writing this dissertation, I created a theoretical model (Figure 3.4) from my literature review to guide my abductive analysis to connect my data and findings with extant literature. I also expanded the model to account for findings that needed more theoretical support. Data and methodological triangulation were completed to find alignment between all three forms of data as well as discrepancies. In the next chapter, I present my findings about Cate’s implementation of multimodal meaning-making with Theo, including how she organized her instruction (e.g., whole-class, small-group, and individual instruction), how she understood multimodality, and the specific instructional approaches she implemented with Theo in mind. I also address Cate’s reasoning for her pedagogical decisions with multimodality. My findings are presented thematically and include excerpts from my interviews with Cate, vignettes from my field notes, and photos I took that showed what Cate and Theo were doing during literacy activities. 125 Chapter 4: Cate’s Classroom Literacy Practices This chapter presents the findings of my first research question: What are the multimodal meaning-making practices the teacher implements during literacy instruction to meet the needs of the student with learning disabilities? With my unit of analysis as multimodal events and practices, this chapter focuses on Cate’s instructional activities she implemented with Theo (multimodal events) as well as the knowledge and beliefs that shaped her instruction (multimodal practices). The findings in this chapter are organized by themes to address Cate’s broader awareness about multimodality and how she planned instruction to specifically target Theo’s needs. There are four themes that are discussed in this chapter: • Meetings learning needs with multimodality • Pedagogical knowledge and perceptions about multimodality • Implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices • Barriers of implementation As described in Chapter 3, some themes are represented by multiple sub-themes drawn from the categories. The themes are situated in the theoretical model I presented in Chapter 2. In Figure 3.4, I understood the practices of teachers to consist of their professional knowledge (e.g., about pedagogy, multimodality, classroom management, etc.), beliefs about literacy, beliefs about LD, and knowledge about the student (e.g., academic progress, learning needs, family life, peer groups, etc.). These components lead to shared knowledge about literacy practices as well as unspoken beliefs that are lesser explored or explained but may still impact how teachers implement literacy practices. I noted in the model that 126 teachers’ practices are tied to the students’ practices because of their shared interactions during literacy instruction. The first section addresses Cate’s perspective of how multimodality meets Theo’s learning needs. In the next section, I discuss Cate’s pedagogical knowledge and perceptions of multimodality and how she structured literacy instruction time in her class. The third section explores how Cate implemented multimodal meaning-making practices in her instruction by using multimodal texts, building a classroom community, experimenting with different modes, and organizing small-group and individual instruction with Theo. Finally, I conclude this chapter with a section about the barriers Cate experienced with the implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices and how these challenges affected Theo’s learning. 4.1 Meeting Theo’s Learning Needs with Multimodality One of the most prominent themes that arose from collaborating with Cate was her focus on meeting Theo’s learning needs and achieving goals during her time with him in the classroom. It was clear from talking to Cate that she knew a great deal about Theo (“knowledge about the student” in Figure 3.4), including his family life, his academic and social difficulties, as well as what would help him feel a sense of accomplishment in her class. When I first interviewed Cate in March 2018, she mentioned that she selected Theo as the focal student because her goal was to examine how he was responding to her multimodal meaning-making practices. She noted that he was a “very good fit” for this study because he needs to communicate his thinking in different ways (Interview, March 15, 2018). I understood this as Theo’s multimodal meaning-making practices as being seen as assessments of academic progress, especially since Cate mentioned “articulating and 127 show[ing] his learning” as being a priority (Interview, March 15, 2018). Subsequently, Cate needed to evaluate the efficacy of multimodal meaning-making practices in some way in order to find alignment with her own instruction, which as she noted in August 2018, was constantly in flux and changing because of the diverse needs in her class. Cate’s beliefs about LD (also Figure 3.4) was grounded in the learning of language as well as how schooling can magnify student difficulties through a lack of access to interventions that can improve students’ learning and experiences in the school community. During my initial interview with her, I asked her to elaborate on Theo’s difficulties, and she responded that “he just has difficulty across the board academically”—in social studies, science, math, and language arts (Interview, March 15, 2018). She explained that his struggles with reading print-based texts led to his academic challenges in other subjects. Cate pointed out that Theo simply did not have the focus to “get through reading a problem or reading information about a strategy” even though he was fairly strong at decoding words. She noted that, even if she was reading with Theo during one-to-one instruction to minimize distractions, his “comprehension [was] just not there.” Theo also struggled with writing—especially with topic generation, following through with a task from beginning to end, and spelling vocabulary words—according to field notes from March 15, 2018. Cate explained that Theo had a tendency to “flip-flop” on his ideas and often struggled to choose an idea and stay with it. When I told Cate about Theo showing me his Word Work, a worksheet focused on vocabulary development and spelling patterns, and having difficulty applying the spelling patterns, she explained that Theo struggled with the “critical piece”; he did not see his mistakes, analyze them, and implement a strategy to correct them. In my field notes from my observation of Cate on April 10, 2018, I noted that she frequently sat with Theo to adjust his 128 work to better align with her instruction, and she even wrote prompts for him at the top of his notes to help him remember his ideas from their conversations. When I compiled the photos of Cate working with Theo, I noticed that she was frequently working with him on print-based tasks, including scribing for him, writing down a list of tasks for him to complete, directing his attention to read the text in front of him, or organizing his worksheets so that he could more easily retrieve them during literacy activities. Because Cate was often working with Theo on his focus and organization, I noted that it was difficult for her to teach other strategies or content during one-to-one instruction with him because of their limited time together and because Theo seemed tired as he tried to focus on Cate’s directions (Field notes, May 15, 2018). However, she was also very clear that Theo’s LD was also impacted by circumstances in the school district and Theo’s experiences with the teaching staff. As such, her beliefs about LD were also tied to her knowledge about the student according to the theoretical model in Figure 3.4. In addition to Theo’s difficulties with processing language and communicating in print, Cate noted that the lack of interventions available to him also affected how she perceived LD. She reflected on Theo’s time in the school and pointed out that, had the paperwork been filed properly and his LD designation been in place, Theo would have been eligible for more structured support (Interview, June 27, 2018). She noted there was a “dignity piece” to this for Theo because his struggles could have been addressed earlier, allowing him to show “his best self” to the school community. Cate pointed out that she should have had clarity about his designation by Grade 5, but, instead, Theo received no services for most of the year and, “systematically, things fell apart” as he was also removed from the pull-out reading group he was in and the childcare services that organized 129 “friendship groups” for Theo to participate in. Because there was an overwhelming number of students eligible for these services, the lapse in Theo’s paperwork prevented him from being considered for these services. Cate concluded that “he’s been waiting a long time to get the support that he needs because, basically, it comes down to a piece of paper here or there. He’s going to Grade 6, and he doesn’t have a specific kind of support. If he had [the services] he should have had, would we be in this position that we are right now?” (Interview, June 27, 2018). Because there was little support for Theo in the classroom, Cate was responsible for both Theo’s individualized instruction and managing a class of students with diverse needs and interests. A noticeable pattern in my photo documentation was how often Cate moved through the classroom in a series of photos taken from the same activity as she met with a number of groups or had a line of students waiting for her as she worked with Theo. Despite Theo’s struggles with print, Cate voiced that it was important to get to know Theo as a learner first. She noted that there were many general societal assumptions made about Theo’s gender and his learning as a boy with LD. With the influx of technology in the classroom, she said it was easy to get caught up in the assumption that “the digital speaks to boys” (Interview, June 27, 2018). Although Theo’s interest in technology was regularly noted throughout the study, Cate recognized that simply giving him a device to work on was not going to help with his productivity. She saw that Theo needed hands-on learning experiences because “material choice” was important in being “flexible” in allowing the students to represent their learning in a variety of ways (Interview, June 27, 2018). However, she also had to consider how to implement technology in a way that did not distract him from his learning. Cate was also conflicted about the amount of screen time appropriate for Theo and his peers. She often offered the use of technology as a choice during Daily 5, but she also 130 wanted students to know that devices were not the only tools available to them. On the other hand, the shortage of devices in the school also impacted her beliefs about giving students a choice. When students really needed devices to finish projects or research their interests, Cate was concerned the lack of devices in her class caused her to overrule her students’ preferences; she explained, When so much [choice] comes through a device, you think [of] when the tech is down, or when they’re being used by another class, or a portion of the class is using the iPads. And this kid decides that they’re doing reading choice, but their reading choice is connected to a device. You sort of think there [are] a lot of issues around access. I think, for some of those spontaneous, in-the-moment things, when it’s really sparked by curiosity or their enthusiasm, it can get lost. (Interview, August 15, 2018) Although Cate recognized the affordances of teaching with multimodal materials, she also had to manage her own expectations of her practices. Cate said that her understanding of multimodality from her professional experiences was framed in terms of students with diverse abilities coming together to have a “grand conversation about something or share something that is complex” (Interview, August 15, 2018). However, she pointed out that all of her students had “so many balls in the air,” reflecting on their own identities as learners, and such expectations about grand conversations were not always realistic. Cate often responded to multimodality in her teaching practice positively, but she also seemed conflicted about its implementation as she juggled the many needs in her classroom. 4.2 Cate’s Pedagogical Knowledge and Perceptions about Multimodality In this section, I discuss Cate’s professional knowledge about teaching and 131 multimodality. First, I explore Cate’s perceptions about multimodality, which was influenced by a variety of factors including her personal beliefs about literacy, BC’s curriculum, and collaboration across the school district. She understood multimodality as respecting students’ choices in expressing their interests and identities and the importance of bringing those values to the forefront of her teaching. Secondly, I describe how Cate organized her literacy instruction time (otherwise known as Daily 5 or Language Arts with the students) to provide more context about the classroom setting. Cate’s professional knowledge (from Figure 3.4) framed the findings in this section; however, there were also intersections with her beliefs about literacy, LD, and her knowledge about Theo as a student. 4.2.1 Cate’s Understanding of Multimodality Cate’s ability to implement multimodal meaning-making practices with Theo was based on what she knew about him as a learner. In order to better understand Cate’s implementation of multimodal meaning-practices with Theo, I needed to explore her perceptions of multimodality and her beliefs about literacy. As I noted in Chapter 2, my units of analysis were the multimodal events during her instruction and the multimodal practices because Cate’s instructional design was also heavily tied to her beliefs, values, attitudes, and previous experiences that informed her professional knowledge about multimodality. I came to understand Cate’s perspective about multimodality as involving student interest and choice, valuing students’ identity, and giving up a sense of control so that her students can experiment with different modes. This was a combination of Cate’s professional knowledge, beliefs about literacy, and knowledge about the students from Figure 3.4. In my first interview with Cate, I asked her what sort of multimodal activities took place in the year so far. This conversation quickly unfolded to Cate’s observations about her students’ 132 interests. She noted spending more time on music, lyrics, and poetry at the beginning of the year after a school-wide event with the Aboriginal Education department in which guests performed music that spoke to the struggles of the bands in the local area. Cate explained that she carried the school wide event into her classroom because of the students’ collective interests. She observed that “they are all really into music right now. They’re sort of at that age where they’ve got their favorite artist[s] and their favorite songs and that kind of stuff. So, being able to get them to connect to the lyric aspect—almost poetry—but coming from the music that they’re enjoying” (Interview, March 15, 2018). Music was also a strong interest of Theo’s as he enjoyed creating music in GarageBand and demonstrated his proficiency with the application during the activist art unit. When I asked him why he liked GarageBand, he responded that “I get to make music and make beats and you can make a lot of cool stuff like rapping and put your words in it if you wanted to but I just only put beats in it and it’s a pretty good [application]” (Interview, May 28, 2018). One of the first activities I observed in Cate’s classroom was the students’ work with Bloxels, a video game creation application (as shown in Figure 4.1). With Bloxels, students could create eight-bit video-game characters and settings either directly on the Bloxels application or using a set of small, colorful blocks (resembling color pixels on a screen) and a patented grid that could be scanned and uploaded onto the Bloxels application. Aside from the open-endedness of the application, which allowed her “to push any [content area] topic because [the students were] able to create around that topic,” she observed that the Bloxels kits “work well because it connects to something that the kids have an interest in” (Interview, March 15, 2018). In other words, Cate felt she was able to utilize Bloxels no matter what content area she was teaching to, and the students were able to express their understanding in 133 ways that spoke to their interests in the kits. She particularly liked Bloxels because there were two different ways to create content. The first option was to build the visuals in the application itself, insert music into the scenes, and change the colors. The second option was to build the scene, character, and other story elements using the little blocks and the black grid. The application uses the iPad camera to scan the blocks and uploads it into the application where the students can continue building their story (Field notes, March 16, 2018). This gives Theo different ways to create content during a shared experience with a small group of usually 3-4 students. Cate encouraged Theo to use the blocks and the grid because he needed to slow down his thinking and be more mindful of his design choices (Interview, May 3, 2018). She noted that, because Bloxels included a number of moving visual pieces, Theo was more drawn to designing each element and was able to express his creativity with technology but also not rush through the story-creation process. Throughout these first observations of Theo using Bloxels with his peers, I saw him switching between the application and the blocks fluidly. For example, in between building the scenes on the grid, he switched to typing details into the story/game: “Your the first person exploring the land. Be careful you have bad eyesight!!!” (Field notes, March 16, 2018). 134 Figure 4.1 A student using the Bloxels application on the iPad and Theo building a scene using the blocks and grid. When I asked Cate why choice was important, especially for Theo’s learning needs, she explained that she felt it was important to be flexible in allowing him and his peers to find different ways to represent their thinking as well as figure out what to do when they encounter difficulties with certain modes (Interview, June 27, 2018). For example, in the same interview, Cate recalled a time prior to the study when Theo chose plasticine for his human body project instead of using Lego, which was a material he worked with often: “It was a total disaster and it didn’t show what it needed to show [in the completed project] but it was like ‘Okay, we’ll just keep looking [for new ideas], we’ll just keep looking, we’ll just keep looking.’” Cate later emphasized in a different interview that she saw multimodality as important in the application of learning, which was why Theo needed opportunities to see what modes worked best for him (Interview, August 15, 2018). 135 In my final interview with Cate in August, I asked her to elaborate on her understanding about multimodal meaning-making practices during literacy instruction. She summarized her practices as giving up a bit of teacher control in the classroom to allow the students to explore and work at their own pace. She noted that while she welcomed opportunities to work with her colleagues in her grade group or school, she felt it was more important to create authentic learning experiences that met her students’ interests: I didn’t want to dedicate the amount [of time to] planning that was like sitting around a table and us [teachers] hashing out how we were going to do this [activity]. It was sort of like we’re going to do that [activity] but [my class is] going to do that in our own way. I think because I just don’t really care sometimes about what’s going on in other classes, I’m just going to be like “Okay, here’s where we started, and it went this way, but that’s fine because we’re just in it as our own class community and it’s not related to passing on resources to somebody else or having to do something in a particular way…. Maybe my kids were talking about things differently than other kids’ projects from other classes [but] you can see what’s important [to my] class…. They’re still able to share and make connections and ask questions and what not. I think, for me [and] the multimodal piece, [you] really just kind of let it go sometimes. You just have to feel that you’re confident in what’s going on in your room and it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside of it. For core competency work where somebody’s sewing or somebody’s writing something, it’s whatever way they’re going to show how they’re going to show [their understanding]. I’m comfortable with that, but I know that [for] other classes they’re comfortable with everybody doing the same thing at the same time. (Interview, August 15, 2018) 136 From my formal interviews, informal conversations, and member checks with Cate to confirm my understanding of her perspective, I began to understand multimodality from her point of view as needing to break out of preconceived notions about what literacy learning looks like in an academic sense. For example, her discussion about representing meaning in different ways indicated she did not see print as the primary modality for her students. Creating opportunities for students to explore their interests and make sense of multiple modes was part of Cate’s teaching responsibilities. In Theo’s case, his choices, like with the plasticine for his human body project, were at times challenges for Cate that she recognized she needed to negotiate as part of her practice. Her goal for Theo was to help him engage in his modal choices meaningfully even if they were choices that conflicted with her observations and assessment of his learning. Ultimately, the core of multimodality in Cate’s point of view was about respecting students’ choices in how they wanted to represent their ideas. 4.2.2 Literacy Instruction in Cate’s Classroom Between March and June, I conducted 35 observations with Cate and Theo, which afforded me the opportunity to immerse myself in the classroom environment. As part of my observations, I was interested in how Cate structured her literacy instruction to implement multimodal instruction, which I also considered to be part of her knowledge about instruction and context (Golombek, 1998) as both intersected. This was partially echoed in Stein’s (2008) work about multimodal pedagogies with diverse learners as she noted that teachers need to “open up the space for students to produce multiple perspectives on the same subject…. This can be accomplished through the careful designing of classroom tasks and a conscious attention to engaging with students’ diverse semiotic resources” (p. 74). As such, it 137 was important to consider what was “the space” that Cate and Theo worked in during literacy activities and what activities took place during this structured time. As I noted in the previous section, Cate’s understanding about multimodality centered around students’ interests and choice, which meant that the classroom was often a busy environment as students worked together on projects or independently to complete their own assignments. Cate implemented a literacy instruction model known in the school district as Daily 5 (Boushey & Moser, 2014), which was also used by many of her colleagues (Interview, August 15, 2018). Daily 5 consisted of a number of activities that the students were expected to complete each week, such as vocabulary development work (known as Word Work), story writing or creating (like with the Bloxels kits), composition of reflections and peer feedback, as well as book clubs during which students discussed a shared picture book or novel in small groups and completed corresponding written activities related to the book. Because Cate noted that many of her colleagues also used Daily 5, this was a form of shared knowledge in Figure 3.4 but she also made changes to the framework based on her teaching needs or her professional knowledge. Fundamental ideas behind Daily 5 are to give students choices in their literacy activities (Boushey & Moser, 2014) and instill a sense of independence in them as part of their literacy learning. Since each student in Cate’s classroom worked at their own pace and completed different activities during Daily 5, routines were important for Cate and her students. Cate often rotated among students, holding conferences and completing assessments, leaving the majority of the students working on their own or in small groups. One of Cate’s bulletin boards in the back of her classroom (see Figure 4.1) was dedicated to Daily 5 activities, which she updated periodically, and the students were reminded to check 138 the board if they needed help or guidance with which activities were still works-in-progress and which activities were viable options to be completed next if they finished an assignment. Because of the multiple activities going on simultaneously, Daily 5 was often a period of chatter and noise as students shared their ideas with each other or moved around the room to find the appropriate space and materials to finish their work. Figure 4.2 The Daily 5 board updated with options for literacy activities. (“Novel Approach” refers to student book clubs.) Although Daily 5 centered on students’ independent and small-group work, Cate also led weekly lessons on reading and writing skills as well as reviewed and scaffolded students’ understanding of content in social studies, science, and math. Cate often taught literacy as part of cross-curricular instruction. For example, during one of my observations, students 139 were analyzing a social-studies article about energy sources, searching for specific text features and information, to practice reading non-fiction texts and to prepare for writing a persuasive essay on the best and worst energy resources. Cate also taught students how to view and analyze a variety of texts during Daily 5 to help them build their understanding of the subject matter at hand and transfer these skills to their own independent work. In my content analysis of the photos, I noticed that Cate was frequently “mid-speech” at the front of the classroom, guiding students towards specific information in the multimodal texts to help scaffold their understanding. This indicated to me that much of her instructional time was spent teaching the students how to use and find information in the multimodal texts before letting them practice the skills in their small group or individual work. One of the timeliest changes in the revised BC curriculum (discussed in Chapter 3) that supported Cate’s practices was the flexibility in the new curriculum that allowed her to create activities that met the diverse needs of her students. Cate noted that this flexibility was important to her with regard to Theo because it gave her the opportunity to widen her range of tools to support his complex learning needs. More importantly, there was more room for her to teach literacy across all of the content areas, which also allowed Theo and his peers to work deeply with a variety of materials in a number of contexts. She pointed out that this flexibility was impossible in the previous curriculum with its prescribed learning outcomes; she was spending a great deal of time dealing with the minutiae of each outcome, limiting the time she could spend on other learning activities (Interview, August 15, 2018). Cate was able to make these changes to her whole literacy program based on a number of similar needs in her class. Earlier in the year, she realized she could not teach a “language-based” Novel Approach (Novel Approach being the student book clubs)—which generally centered around 140 print-based literature—because Theo and his reading groups had such a wide range of reading levels and abilities (Interview, May 3, 2018). With the room afforded in the revised BC curriculum to include different multimodal texts, Cate felt she had more options for explaining content in different ways to bridge gaps in Theo’s understanding of printed text. Understanding Cate’s structuring of her daily literacy instruction is important because her literacy practices shifted depending on specific contexts of instruction with Theo—whole-class, small-group, and individual. Because there was constantly a mix of students working with Theo and multiple transitions between shared and individual activities, Cate had to balance meeting Theo’s specific needs with those of the rest of the class. 4.3 Implementation of Multimodal Meaning-Making Practices In this section, I discuss the instructional approaches Cate employed in her classroom practice as well as her understanding of why and how these approaches met Theo’s learning needs in some way. I also reiterate Theo’s learning needs, which were summarized earlier in this chapter, and situate his needs in the context of the instruction. Referring to Figure 3.4, this was considered an intersection between professional knowledge and knowledge about the student. This section also explores Cate’s practices as she shifted between whole-class, small-group, and individual instruction, which is important to address because the implementation of multimodal meaning-making practices with Theo varied according to who else (i.e., students, other staff, guest teachers, etc.) participated in the literacy activities. I also separated the different contexts because with my unit of analysis as the literacy activities, I was able to triangulate my findings by comparing Cate’s practices with Theo during different instructional contexts (e.g., time, space, and people) (Denzin, 1978). Once again, this helped me to find any similar or inconsistent patterns to further contextualize Cate’s practices with 141 Theo (Mathison, 1988). From my interviews with Cate, observations of her instruction, and photo documentation of her teaching materials, I interpreted her instructional strategies as teaching with multimodal texts, building a classroom community, creating hands-on activities and experimenting with multimodal meaning-making, and facilitating guided instruction in small group or individual instruction with Theo. 4.3.1 Teaching with Multimodal Texts Upon entering Cate’s classroom in March 2018, it was clear that multimodal texts played a significant role in her literacy practices. In the context of this study, multimodal texts are defined as digital and non-digital content that combine a variety of modes together (Anstey & Bull, 2018; Serafini, 2011). Although I observed Cate using a variety of texts in her instruction (i.e., picture books, Scholastic articles, YouTube videos, and podcasts) and Cate talked more in-depth about using other texts such as song lyrics, poems, and stories in her initial interview on March 15, 2018, I noticed from my content analysis of photos that a large portion of Cate’s instruction, especially during whole-class contexts, revolved around expository multimodal texts. Cate often used these texts for prolonged periods of time so that the students were able to revisit the texts multiple times to deepen their background knowledge. For example, the Scholastic articles were available to the students for weeks during their inquiry units and Cate posted them on the whiteboard with the magnet to encourage students to look at the information. She often introduced a topic with these types of multimodal texts during whole-class instruction because she needed to teach or model how to listen and view for information, strategies she deemed crucial for her students’ learning since they were constantly exposed to a variety of texts during class time to meet the standards of the English Language Arts 142 curriculum (BC Ministry of Education, 2019). One of the first activities I observed at the start of the study was the students working together in small groups, analyzing photocopies of an image depicting Aboriginal people meeting European explorers for the first time in Canada (Field notes, March 8, 2018). Cate explained that she viewed multimodal texts as assets in her instruction because they provided students with “other entry points” into the content they were studying (Interview, May 3, 2018). For Theo, Cate noted that visual aspects of multimodal texts were critical to Theo’s learning because of his difficulties with reading and comprehending print-based materials. I noted in my photos that Cate’s whiteboards were always filled with her writing, which I later coded as part of grade level expectations for Theo and his peers. I noticed that with each multimodal text that she taught came a set of directions that needed to be followed by the students. For example, when the students were reading Scholastic articles for social studies units and visual analysis was the focus, there were directions written on the board to identify big ideas in the title of the article, the illustrations or photos, and highlighted or bolded texts. This indicated to me that Cate wanted the students to not only gain some background knowledge about the content but also to practice some reading or viewing strategies. Because the multimodal texts were so varied in her practice, that meant she needed to constantly teach to different skills or support their understanding in a variety of ways. An example of this can be seen in one of Cate’s anecdotes she relayed to me. At the beginning of the year, Cate read Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox and Animals of the Salish Sea to the class as read-aloud books. She had chosen these books because she was comfortable working with Indigenous and First Nations stories from her undergraduate experiences and teacher training work in Aboriginal Education, and she felt they fit in well with their class 143 study about community and identity (Interview, March 15, 2018). Cate and the students analyzed the qualities and characteristics of each animal in the stories, and the students identified animals they believed strongly aligned with their personalities. She asked the students to consider which characteristics were important to them and how they could develop or strengthen those qualities throughout the school year. During these read-alouds, Cate observed Theo being more actively engaged during discussions because there were no right or wrong answers. He was able to discuss the book and the qualities of each animal comfortably, especially since the visuals in the books were not figurative depictions that required a level of analysis he was still developing. Instead, the static images of the animals delivered straightforward information he could easily comprehend, enhancing his confidence. Cate acknowledged that she wanted to find ways for Theo to contribute more in class with his strengths in visual analysis. She used images in texts to help Theo understand print so that he could “build some of that background . . . [and] have a discussion or . . . start to participate with that knowledge” (Interview, May 3, 2018). Discussions were an important practice for Cate because they helped the students in the classroom to share knowledge from their diverse perspectives. For example, during the activist art unit that started in April, Cate showed a video of an interview with renowned artist, Ai Weiwei, who spoke about his sculpture of a raft carrying refugees. Cate noted that she had a number of students who had just arrived in Canada within the past couple of years from refugee camps, and she wanted to promote ways for them to talk about their experiences (Field notes, April 11, 2018). Cate paired this video with a podcast of Ai Weiwei talking about a mural he created, which he dedicated to the memory of the young students who died in the Sichuan, China, earthquake 144 of 2008. Cate mentioned that these two multimodal texts provided the students with a “combination of some layers [to] pull from what has just been built as a background” (Interview, May 3, 2018). She periodically paused the video and the podcast to ask the groups to discuss some of their observations and thoughts about Ai Weiwei’s art. Cate noted that, although she frequently implemented discussions during whole-class instruction, she also recognized that the group conversations may not always have helped Theo. She observed that her other students could take on different topics and ways of thinking that might have been difficult for Theo to follow (Field notes, April 10, 2018). Additionally, according to my field notes from April 10, 2018, Theo was drawn to both the Ai Weiwei video and the podcast, but he struggled to understand the information from both texts as evident in his body language as he nervously tapped his fingers or fidgeted in this seat. From my field notes on April 11, 2018, when Cate asked the groups to summarize what they had heard from the podcast, she noticed that Theo had difficulties paying attention and repeatedly answered, “I don’t know,” to his group members. Theo’s response prompted Cate to remind him to listen for information by establishing a question they wanted to address—for example, listening for keywords and phrases that addressed what Ai Weiwei’s message of change was with his art. The group then listened to the podcast again. In the follow-up discussion, I noted, in my field notes from April 11, 2018, that Theo still struggled to establish a purpose for his listening of the podcast and continued to fidget quietly in his seat. However, although he was not able to participate in recalling and summarizing verbal information from the podcast, he was still able to connect his background knowledge about earthquakes to the topic. As per my field notes from April 11, 2018, during the same group discussions, he talked to his group about the struggles of people leaving their home countries 145 as well as how frightening the earthquake was for the students in the school. He also tried to imagine the challenging conditions that the refugees and the students had to live through based on what he saw in the video and heard in the podcast—a skill Cate had been teaching all year long. Although he was still developing his understanding of activism, the refugee crisis, and the destruction of the school, Theo was able to participate in these group discussions in some capacity even though he initially struggled with the multimodal texts. The activist art unit later progressed to contemporary music groups like The Jerry Cans, a folk and country music band from Iqaluit, Nunavut, who also performed traditional throat singing in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people. Their music shared aspects of their culture as well as the challenges of living in the Far North. In addition to the brief profile in the article from Scholastic, Cate played a music video/documentary on YouTube that the group had created with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which also had a 360-degree viewing function that allowed her to show the students different perspectives and viewpoints in the video. For example, in one scene, the band’s music played quietly while two people worked in a kitchen. As I wrote in my field notes from April 16, 2018, Cate was able to pan the video to show that these individuals were actually cleaning and gutting fish on the floor of the kitchen. As Cate rotated this scene, the students saw a family of adults and a child on the other side of the kitchen also preparing fish and eating together. The lively music and this panning function immediately captured Theo’s attention during whole-class instruction. Cate asked the students to keep notes of their observations from the video, which was difficult for Theo, who wrote keywords or short phrases such as “throat singing” and “the art is music.” However, viewing the video provided Theo with some visual information 146 to work with as Cate summarized important information about the band and the messages they conveyed through their music and lyrics. Cate believed that instruction with multimodal texts should include using quality texts to help students identify digital non-fiction texts, particularly websites, that are trustworthy and reliable. Cate pointed to the Discovery Education Science Techbook as an example of a source for quality texts—texts that promoted student learning. Because the Techbook used a variety of modes, students became increasingly familiar with what well-researched and well-presented videos, audio, animations, graphics, and written material looked like when it came time for them to find their own resources. Her view of quality in multimodal texts signaled to me that literacy for her was also about being conscientious about the materials she and the students were working with. This echoed one of the competencies from the BC Ministry of Education (2018c), who noted that students should be able to critically analyze and reflect on a wide range of texts. To help her students make use of multimodal texts, Cate modelled for them how to use the texts and then allowed them to access her curated textual collection during their Daily 5 work sessions. Her collection of multimodal texts included music, videos, and websites, organized by unit topics and shared with the students on Edmodo, an online learning platform. Cate did not specifically teach students how to evaluate information on websites, but, through her careful selection of materials, she retained control over what materials her students viewed independently and in small groups in hopes of reinforcing features of well-researched texts. She noted that it was important to have texts that the students could work with not only to enhance their representation of ideas in multimodal ways but also to help them identify when they misrepresent information (Field notes, June 20, 2018). For example, 147 one of the final class projects was to create posters about certain types of plants that would later be displayed in Peabody Park, a large forest space across the street from the school. Cate had a list of specific information she wanted to see on the posters and uploaded websites about the plants that included pronunciation guides, First Nations names of the plants, as well as their features (e.g., size, leaf shape, and type of berries). She utilized websites with information from First Nations and Indigenous perspectives about the park’s ecosystem because she frequently drew upon these perspectives in her instruction. She explained to the students, as noted in my field notes from June 20, 2018, that these websites were acceptable resources to use for the posters because Wikipedia or other websites may have contained inaccurate information or may not have had any First Nations or Indigenous perspectives. Cate’s curation of these multimodal texts was important for Theo’s learning because it helped to alleviate some of his difficulties with staying focused on his work. Theo was a savvy user of mobile devices and digital multimodal texts. He was capable of doing his own Web searches as well. However, many of the websites in these searches were above his reading level. Cate’s collection of websites worked well for Theo in the creation of his poster because he had had limited time to complete the project after having been absent for days. Cate found that, even with the lack of time spent on this activity, Theo was able to read and process the information from the websites, conference with a peer to check his understanding, and apply his knowledge to produce the poster with little frustration, as noted in my field notes from June 20, 2018. As the websites were closer to Theo’s reading level, he was not mired in Web searches that overwhelmed him, and he had time to complete “more meaningful work” (Interview, May 3, 2018). Cate observed that Theo often needed more 148 time to think through his understanding of multimodal texts, and he needed opportunities to work with the text more than once. It was especially important to allow him to view the multimodal texts a few times with his peers because he was able to layer his understanding gradually rather than be overwhelmed with receiving too much information to process at once. Cate felt that Theo was more engaged in his projects when he worked with multimodal texts that were accessible to him, which raised his confidence in his learning, and he was less inclined to opt out of the activity. 4.3.2 Building a Classroom Community Throughout my interviews and talks with Cate, there were reoccurring discussions about the importance of building a community of learners that recognized and respected multiple representations of learning. This was especially important in regard to Theo’s learning because he was a personable student who looked to share experiences with his peer groups, but he had trouble establishing friendships with them (Interview, March 15, 2018), which again, reflected her strong knowledge of Theo as a student. Cate recognized that it was important to meet Theo’s academic learning and social needs as part of her instruction and she hoped to model strong friendships for her students. Strengthening the community within her classroom was important to Cate because she recognized that the students needed to be mindful of their capabilities as learners, but they also needed to appreciate their peers’ diverse backgrounds, interests, experiences, and learning needs in order to facilitate learning experiences that were equitable and meaningful. For Theo, this was particularly important because he was always “desperately looking for community” (Interview, August 15, 2018). As mentioned in Chapter 2, and as noted in my field notes from April 10, 2018, Theo was a friendly child who often greeted, by name and with a quick wave, every student and teacher 149 who passed him in the classroom or in the school hallways. From my frequent observations of Theo, I noted that he was the closest to Aidan and Abby, but he also made efforts to connect with many of his peers through small talk about mutual interests (i.e., playing Fortnite™ and other video games), although they were not always receptive of his efforts as they shied away from conversation with him (Field notes, June 4, 2018). Compounding Theo’s academic difficulties were his challenges interacting with his peers as Cate observed that he had issues determining what [was] appropriate sometimes and what [was] too silly for his age level or what [behavior was] “in somebody’s face” that people would think of as crossing the line. Sometimes people [got] offended b
UBC Theses and Dissertations
Managing the gap : exploring the multimodal literacy instruction of a student with learning disabilities Chang, Lisa Marie 2020
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