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“Blackness is not just a single definition”: multimodal composition as an exercise for surfacing and scaffolding student theorizing in a Black Studies classroom

Esther O. Ohito (School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill,North Carolina, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 12 July 2021

Issue publication date: 20 July 2021

129

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate multimodal composition as an exercise or tool for teaching students theory building. To illustrate, an analysis of artifacts comprising a student’s multimodal composition, which was created in response to a multipart literacy assignment on theorizing Blackness, is analyzed.

Design/methodology/approach

Afrocentricity served as both theoretical moor and research methodology. Qualitative case study, focusing on the case of an individual student, was the research method used.

Findings

Multimodal composition was an effective exercise for surfacing the multidimensionality of a student’s complex knowledge while simultaneously placing the student in the powerful position of theorist. The process of composing multimodally integrated reading, writing and speaking skills while revealing the focal student’s need for targeted writing intervention.

Practical implications

The study evidences multimodal composition as a useful exercise for capturing students’ nuanced interpretations or students’ critical theorizing as well as meaningfully incorporating and assessing students’ literacy skills.

Originality/value

Exposure to preexisting theory alone relegates students to the realm of passive knowledge consumers. This undermines the emancipatory and justice-oriented objectives of critical education, which ideally contributes to social change by challenging dominant power structures and distorted perspectives of marginalized persons. To be empowered agentic learners, students need to be both taught how to theorize and engaged as theorists. This study shows how multimodal composition can be used as a liberatory literacy tool for those intertwined pedagogical purposes.

Keywords

Citation

Ohito, E.O. (2021), "“Blackness is not just a single definition”: multimodal composition as an exercise for surfacing and scaffolding student theorizing in a Black Studies classroom", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 227-244. https://doi.org/10.1108/ETPC-05-2020-0047

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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