UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Managing the gap : exploring the multimodal literacy instruction of a student with learning disabilities Chang, Lisa Marie


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 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).

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International