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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Multimodal academic discourse socialization : an ethnographic multiple-case study of geoscience students’ poster presentations at a Canadian university Yamamoto, Masaru


Academic discourse socialization (ADS) provides useful theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical insights into the processes, affordances, and challenges associated with students’ learning and engagement in academic discourses and tasks (Duff & Anderson, 2015). While research has predominantly documented oral and written ADS, language socialization theorists have increasingly examined the significant affordances of multimodal and embodied meaningmaking resources (Duff, Zappa-Hollman, & Surtees, 2019). However, the roles and dynamic interrelationships among these different modes require further ADS research. Another research gap concerns the type of academic task that is analyzed. Compared to lecture-type student presentations (Duff & Kobayashi, 2010), fewer studies have explored poster presentations, which foreground the orchestration of verbal, written, visual, and embodied resources to effectively communicate their meanings in dynamic ways (MacIntosh-Murray, 2007). Despite this complexity and the ubiquity of poster presentations in courses and at conferences, little is known about students’ actual multimodal meaning-making practices in poster presentations. This thesis therefore explores the nexus of these two interrelated, underexplored areas. Drawing on Vygotskian sociocultural theory, ADS, and ecological approaches (Duff, 2007; van Lier, 2004), this thesis reports findings from a multiple-case study of undergraduate students’ multimodal ADS and poster presentation performance in a geoscience course at a Canadian university. Data generated through semester-long classroom observations, interviews with the instructor and students, and participant-produced documents (e.g., posters) were qualitatively analyzed following a multi-cycle procedure (Miles et al., 2019). Video-recorded data were analyzed using multimodal interaction analysis (Norris, 2019) to examine four participants’ moment-to-moment deployment of multiple meaning-making resources in their poster presentations. Findings show that students were socialized into the recurrent in-class “observation versus interpretation” activity to learn to differentiate them in the visual geographical data in highly multimodal and embodied ways. The analyses of students’ videorecorded poster presentations further demonstrate how these multimodal and embodied practices were manifested in students’ performance using spoken and written language, visuals, iconic and deictic gestures, and viewers’ questions as additional semiotic resources. This study emphasizes that multimodal enactments constitute a crucial dimension of disciplinary practices and values connected with learning to think, view, and represent knowledge “like geoscientists.”

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