The Concept of Multiliteracies and its Relevance for Inclusive Education

Term Paper 2015 12 Pages

Didactics - English - Pedagogy, Literature Studies



1. Introduction

2. Inclusion
2.1 Inclusion and Integration
2.2 Inclusive Education

3. Multiliteracies
3.1 A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies
3.2 Designing Social Futures

4. Multiliteracies and its Relevance for Inclusive Education

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Teachers meet students with diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, with differences in cognitive abilities and gender, diverse languages, proficiencies in language use, and previous life experiences. Again, these students have had various encounters with technological advances in communication and information media. We live in a globalized world that reaches far into classrooms. To take into account these differences, teachers need to act and react to the changing needs of students as well as address the diversity of students’ backgrounds.

The similarities between the concepts of inclusion and multiliteracies—as understood by the New London Group[1] —will be explored. The thesis that underlies this paper is that both approaches do possess a common ground, and the theoretical framework of multiliteracies and multiliteracy practices can play an essential role in inclusive approaches within the classroom. There is no aim here to put theory into practice: It is rather the comparison and merger of both concepts to find support for each another.

As a teacher engaged in the training of special education needs, I find it relevant to understand the connection of the concepts of multiliteracies and inclusive education to derive a basic but fundamental comprehension of benefits of multiliteracy practices in my work with students. My personal and professional understanding of inclusion does not exclude students without diagnosed special educational needs from my focus; on the contrary, it vigorously includes all students.

Chapter Two concentrates on inclusive education by giving a brief definition of the term “inclusion” and what the central and essential ideas of inclusive education are. Chapter Three focuses on the concept of multiliteracies, its definition by the New London Group, and its implications for a new pedagogy shaped by theories of multiliteracies. Chapter Four brings together the findings concerning multiliteracy pedagogies and inclusive education to discusses the central question of whether the theory of multiliteracies does display any relevance for inclusive education, where these principles and mind-sets meet, and where the theoretical and practical implications of a theory of multiliteracies can be useful in an inclusive educational setting. The conclusion that follows sums up the results and reflects these, and displays possible consequences for further research.

As both concepts bear a complex and non-distinct definition, and given the limitations of this paper, only aspect and core elements of multiliteracies and inclusive education are provided.

2. Inclusion

There is limited space in this seminar paper to provide a satisfactory description of the theoretical concept of inclusive education. A definition of the term “inclusion”—in contrast to the idea of integration—contrasts the basic concept of a broader understanding of inclusion. Furthermore, a description of inclusive education will specifically open the field to inclusion in the scholastic sector.

2.1 Inclusion and Integration

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term inclusion as: “the act of including someone or something as part of a group, list, etc., or a person or thing that is included.” In the context of education and social sciences, inclusion is “the idea that everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences, including people who have a disability or other disadvantages” (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/inclusion).

The goal of inclusion is: “[…] das selbstverständliche, gleichberechtigte und wertschätzende Miteinander der Verschiedenen, wobei das Selbstverständliche darin besteht, dass ihre Unterschiedlichkeit nicht eigens thematisiert werden muss.” (Katzenbach, 2015, p. 23). Whereas integration “[…] zielt auf das gleichberechtigte und wertschätzende Miteinander der Verschiedenen, wobei ihre Unterschiedlichkeit explizit thematisiert wird, um Gleichberechtigung und Wertschätzung zu sichern.” (Katzenbach, 2015, p. 23). The concept of integration requires the categorization of a person for them to receive resources. Inclusion aims to overcome such naming, pointing, and declaration of differences and impairments. The peril in not addressing could be an inadequate or deficient recognition of differences and associated needs, and ignoring differences could create a new inequality. Katzenbach states that inclusion refers to the basis of a pedagogy of diversity, in recognition of the differences and individuality of all children, segregating none. Disability is a trait shared by many. Everyone is different and seen as a unique, individual being (cf. Katzenbach, 2015, p. 20ff.). Essential to Katzenbach’s understanding is that within an inclusive educational school system, students learn together, regardless of their learning preconditions. Every child obtains the individual and specific support they need, no matter which label they may have (cf. Katzenbach, 2015, p. 20).

With reference to Ainscow, Booth and Dyson, inclusion “may be defined in variety of ways” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 14), and there “...is no one perspective on inclusion within a single country or school” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 14). They explore six different definitions and ways of thinking about inclusion.

Firstly, inclusion “…as a concern with disabled students and others categorized as having special educational needs…” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 15) and focuses on the co-teaching of all students in one classroom. The authors criticize the total attention given to students with special educational needs in defiance of other dimensions of heterogeneity, such as socio-cultural background or gender. They remark and acknowledge that all the same, the allocation of resources is interrelated with this categorical approach (cf. Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 15). Secondly, inclusion “…as a response to disciplinary exclusion…” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 15) is related to bad behavior. Third, inclusion in “…relation to all groups seen as being vulnerable to exclusion…” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 15) and echoes the tendency to define inclusion rather broadly about overcoming discrimination against defenseless and vulnerable groups. Fourth, inclusion “…developing the school for all…,” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 15) adhering to relationships between schools, groups, and communities that believe in the values of diversity. Fifth, inclusion is “Education for All” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 15), linked to the Declaration of Education for All by UNESCO in 2000. Sixth, inclusion “…as a principled approach to education and society…” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 15) represents an upright, moral and ethical substructure for teaching and society.

Furthermore, Ainscow et al. developed a profound understanding of inclusion derived from a perspective that views inclusion regarding overlapping social values “…as concerned with equity, participation, community, compassion, respect for diversity, sustainability and entitlement” (Ainscow et al., 2006, p. 23). The idea of a school that includes all children and excludes none: Instead of concentrating on one group of students that share a single dimension of heterogeneity, it suggests a broader look at groups of students, and everyone is perceived individually (cf. Werning, 2014, p. 3f). The idea behind this thought is that difference is not seen concerning a norm, but instead, it states that everyone is different and normal, with the focus being placed on individuality.

The definition of inclusion used in this paper affiliates a broader understanding of inclusion that does not narrow down to people with disabilities or special educational needs. Rather, the underlying concept of inclusion relates to all individuals. Special needs could be transferred into individual needs and individual backgrounds, which are appreciated and acknowledged.

2.2 Inclusive Education

The key principle of the pedagogical approach of inclusive education is appreciation and recognition of diversity among students. Inclusive education has come to mean the arrangement of a framework for all children in the sense of an Education for All “…as an overall principle, [...] [that] should guide all education policies and practices, starting from the fact that education is a basic human right and the foundation for a more just and equal society” (UNESCO, 2009, p. 8).

Cognitive ability, gender, language, ethnic and cultural background are appreciated equally, are respected, and students are offered real learning opportunities that reflect their real-life conditions. Participation and educational opportunities are equally allocated and accessible to attain full involvement in school and society as education is a gateway to participation. An entry to teaching and learning is important as it postulates prospects in a “…broad range of areas, including the personal, professional, social and the economic” (Cara, 2007, p. 222). Besides, education provides “the means of social equity […] since structured inequality rests as much upon restricted access to language and the world of thoughts as it does open other resources such as jobs, money, sex, and status” (Cara, 2007, p. 222)

Werning Lütje-Klose (2012) declare the process of learning as successful and inclusive if students find real-world tasks with reasonable and relevant topics and subjects. New knowledge connects with student’s prior knowledge and if students can outline and discuss their comprehension and new findings with others in cooperative learnings settings. Students experience themselves as self-effective among their peers and within social contexts. Teachers should provide a learning environment that is a safe space for learners, where they can consciously reflect their learning process. Pedagogical practices should include individualization, internal differentiation, intentional creation of commonality among students, and meaningful exercises and classroom discussions as key elements of successful inclusive teaching (cf. Werning Lütje-Klose, 2012, p. 166ff.).

3. Multiliteracies

The following chapter outlines the essence of the pedagogy of multiliteracies according to the New London Group, and explains the concept of design.

3.1 A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies

The New London Group came together in September 1994 in New London (Massachusetts/USA). Comprising 10 academics from three English-speaking countries, they aimed to develop “…a theoretical overview of the connections between the changing social environmental facing students and teachers and a new approach to literacy pedagogy that they call ‘multiliteracies’.” (NLG, 1996, p. 60).

The following chapter concentrates on the multiliteracies concept presented in the group’s “…programmatic manifesto…” (NLG, 1996, p. 63) A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies published in 1996. A globalized world—which affects the private, public and work life (cf. NLG, 1996, p. 65)—also reaches far into classrooms. These consist of a heterogeneous students’ body with multiple backgrounds and experiences—old or “mere” (NLG, 1996, p. 64) literacies, which provide a mono-linguistic and monocultural approach to literacy theory and pedagogies—do not meet student needs. The core aims and argument of the NLG are to develop a concept of a pedagogy of literacy that firstly acknowledges the growing linguistic and cultural diversity and secondly endorses technical and communicational changes within the world (cf. NLG, 1996, p. 63). Multiliteracies, therefore, is a “…kind of pedagogy […] in which language and other modes of meaning are dynamic representational resources, constantly being remade by their users as they work to achieve their various cultural purpose” (NLG, 1996, p. 64).

Changes that affect work life require individuals to be capable users of new technologies and communication channels. Beyond that, they should be able to create new ways and cultures of communication to face changing hierarchical structures (cf. NLG, 1996, p. 66).

In public life, such as in the school sector, students, and educators should be able to confront cultural, religious, or ethnic diversities respectfully, accepting these in a constructive manner. The role of schools and states must be “…strong as neutral arbiters of differences” (NLG, 1996, p. 69). The NLG criticizes schools that place importance on traditional standards and the preservation of old power structures while simultaneously withdrawing linguistic and cultural diversity of students. Students’ backgrounds, interests, and objectives are meaningful for classrooms. Teachers are accountable for students’ success and development in the scholarly sector and emerging real-world tasks, and should acknowledge it. Diversity should function as a source for the learning process (cf. NLG, 1996, p. 68f.). A shift from private to public life occurs in the private sector (cf. NLG, 1996, p. 70) and as “…people are simultaneously members of multiple life worlds, so their identities have multiple layers that are in complex relation to each other” (NLG, 1996, p. 71).


[1] Henceforth referred to as NLG.


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concept multiliteracies relevance inclusive education



Title: The Concept of Multiliteracies and its Relevance for Inclusive Education