Campbell, Harrison (University of Calgary)

Literacy, according to Lindquist and Seitz (2009), “is one of those words, like love, that people use commonly and confidently, as if its meaning were transparent and stable” (p. 8). In this interactive virtual presentation, I will showcase a current study, including research design and literature review, examining how literacy comes to be defined within schools and how dramatic inquiry and digital media can be used to recognize student agency, authorship, and identity within literacies definition.

This study draws upon the work of the New London Group (NLG), which spoke to a growing multiplicity of communication techniques around cultural and linguistic diversities (New London Group, 1994). Moving beyond monolingual and monocultural approaches and expanding the scope of literacy pedagogy, the group proposed a framework of multiliteracies embracing multimodality and contextual responsiveness to the learning environment.

Students, especially those who are English Language Learners (ELL), need to have inclusive and equitable spaces in which they can play the role of code breakers, text users and text analysts while developing literacy. Artistic inquiry and theatrical spaces in addition to teaching the aforementioned roles, also strengthen students social and cultural wellbeing (Wells & Sandretto, 2017). Theatrical spaces, are applicable not only to traditional performance halls, they are also possible within digital formats. For example, process drama which relies upon improvising original texts, interpreting texts of others, and investigating the social and cultural contexts that shape text creation are suitable modes of exploring artistic literacy representation (Pascoe, 2002, p. 70).

In this study, students use a theatrical space to collectively communicate their experience of literacy and develop their own literacy practices. In my study, I argue for a shift in policy from “literacy” to “multiliteracies” through demonstrating that students’ actual practices of interaction, identification, and embodiment of literacy experiences can refine educational policy (Macro, 2015). Rather than being perceived as an endpoint, it is hoped that literacy will come to be recognized an ongoing learning process integrating student agency, authorship, and identity.


Lindquist, J., & Seitz, D. (2009). The elements of literacy. New York: Pearson

Longman. Macro, K. (2015). Drama as literacy: Perceptions of an interactive pedagogy. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 20(3), 337-339. doi:10.1080/13569783.2015.1059270

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60.

Pascoe, R. (2002). Stretching the envelope for arts literacy: Arguing for multiple literacies through drama and the other arts. Melbourne Studies in Education, 43(2), 64. doi:10.1080/17508480209556403

Wells, T., & Sandretto, S. (2017). “I’m on a journey I never thought I’d be on”: Using process drama pedagogy for the literacy programme. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 12(2), 180. doi:10.1080/1554480X.2016.1245147


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