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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Knowledge mobilization, multilingual students and democratic accountability Potts, Diane Jean


Information societies, characterized by mobile populations, cross-border collaborations, and an emphasis on knowledge creation, increasingly value individuals’ ability to move knowledge across contexts. Yet, despite the privilege conferred on such practices, knowledge mobilization as semiotic practices remains relatively unexamined, its theorization lagging behind scholarly and public interest. This inquiry takes up the challenges of theorizing knowledge mobilization, testing the explanatory potential of Bernstein’s sociology of pedagogy and the pedagogic device as it relates to knowledge movement in and about classrooms (Bernstein 1977a, 1990, 2000, 2001). Its specific interest lies in: a) the potential contribution of students’ quotidian (particularly multilingual) knowledge to students’ apprenticeship in knowledge mobilization skills, and b) the circulation of knowledge regarding such practices among educational stakeholders. Theorizing knowledge mobilization as a practice of recontextualization, and capitalizing on well-established exotropic relations between Bernstein’s work and social semiotics, particularly systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and development of a visual grammar (Halliday, 1978, 2004; Hasan, 1999a; Kress, 2000c; Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996/2006), three propositions focused on multimodality, student voice and register are used to test Bernstein’s theories against students’ and teachers’ hypermodal texts (see http://multiliteracies.ca). The analysis reveals the complexity of the recontextualization tasks and the pertinence of Bernstein’s theories. Affordance of a range of semiotic resources facilitates recontextualization of quotidian knowledge within an academic register; enables drawing on multilingual capabilities to support a position as knower among parents and peers; and allows a student’s substantial design skills to be employed in the interpretation of a Shakespearean sonnet. But multimodality confounds as well as supports recontextualization of pedagogic texts and practices for purposes of public accountability: the dissolution of the textual boundaries integral to hypermodal texts simultaneously dissipates the teacher’s presence as author and knower. Here, Bernstein’s theories explain how stakeholders’ position as co-author of hypermodal texts combines with the texts’ predominant register to impede mobilization of teachers’ knowledge. The relevance of Bernstein’s theories to explanations of reversals of dominant knowledge flows and to pedagogic practices of knowledge mobilization are highlighted. The inquiry was supported by a SSHRC Standard Research Grant.

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