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ECML PROGRAMME - Programme 2012-2015

A pluriliteracies approach to teaching for learning

A pluriliteracies approach builds on CLIL approaches to help learners become better meaning-makers, who can draw on content knowledge to communicate successfully across languages, disciplines and cultures. In this way it promotes deep learning and helps develop responsible, global citizens.


Cognitive discourse functions

“patterns that have arisen from the demand that participants within the institution school orient towards explicit or implicit learning goals and the fact that they have the repeated need for communicating about ways of handling and acting upon curricular content, concepts, and facts (cf. cognitive process dimension of Anderson et al. 2001). It is their very nature to provide speakers with schemata (discoursal, lexical and grammatical) for coping with standard situations in dealing with the task of building knowledge and making it intersubjectively accessible.” (Dalton-Puffer 2013: 16)


Dalton-Puffer, Christiane 2013. A construct of cognitive discourse functions for conceptualizing. EuJAL, Vol. 1 no. 2: 1-38

Communicative purpose

“A genre comprises a class of communicative events, the members of which share some set of communicative purposes. These purposes are recognized by the expert members of the parent discourse community and thereby constitute the rationale for the genre. This rationale shapes the schematic structure of the discourse and influences and constrains choice of content and style.” (Swales 1990: 58)


Swales, J.M. 1990. Genre Analysis – English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Disciplinary literacies

“literacy skills specialized to history, science, mathematics, literature or other subject matter” (Shanahan & Shanahan 2008). Also called secondary literacy.


Shanahan, T & Shanahan, C. 2008. Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents: Rethinking Content-Area Literacy. Harvard Educational Review. Vol. 78/1: 40-59.

Discourse community

"The use of the term 'discourse community' testifies to the increasingly common assumption that discourse operates within conventions defined by communities, be they academic disciplines or social groups. The pedagogies associated with writing across the curriculum and academic English now use the notion of 'discourse communities' to signify a cluster of ideas: that language use in a group is a form of social behaviour, that discourse is a means of maintaining and extending the group's knowledge and of initiating new members into the group, and that discourse is epistemic or constitutive of the group's knowledge." (Herzberg, B. 1986)


Herzberg B. 1986. The politics of discourse communities. Paper presented at the CCC Convention, New Orleans, La, March, 1986. (Quoted in J M Swales, 1990, Genre Analysis, Cambridge: CUP.)


 “A genre is a culturally determined way of getting things done, with patterns that can be predicted, to varying degrees, by members of a particular culture. It is a social activity that has a purpose, is enacted through stages and is realised through language. In terms of the school subjects, the genres are the ‘practices‘ (actions combined with visual and verbal texts) that the teacher and students engage in.“ (Polias, 2006: 49)


Polias, J. (2006) “Assessing learning: a language-based approach”. In Mikael Olofsson (ed.) Symposium 2006. Stockholm, Sweden: Nationellt Centrum för SFI, HLS.


“Systemic Functional Linguistics sees language as a means for learning about the world. It models learning as a process of making meaning, and language learning as building one‘s meaning making potential to make meaning in particular contexts. Knowledge is viewed as meaning, a resource for understanding and acting on the world. All knowledge is constituted in semiotic systems with language as the most central.” (Mohan et al. 2010: 221).


Mohan, B. & Leung, C. & Slater, T. (2010) “Assessing Language and Content: A Functional Perspective”. In Amos, Paran/Sercu, Lies (eds.) Testing the Untestable in Language Education, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 217-240.

Learning strategies

“Learning strategies are mental steps or operations that learners use to learn a new language and to regulate their efforts to do so.”(Wenden 1991: 18)


Wenden, A. 1991. Learner strategies for learner autonomy: Planning and implementing learner training for learner autonomy. New York: Prentice Hall.


“Literacy is control of secondary discourses and uses of language” (Goldoni Francis 2008, 70; quoting Gee 1989), and “being literate in a wide range of private and public discourses and contexts is closely related to the notion of advancedness in a foreign language” (Goldoni 2008: 70).


Goldoni, F. 2008. Designing a Foreign Language Curriculum in Postsecondary Education Drawing from the Multiliteracy, Functionalist and Genre-Based Approaches. Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 5: 63-85.

Making meaning

Language both constructs and interprets the meaning of content in the curriculum. The act of teaching a particular part of the curriculum content can be understood as a communication process, in which meaning realised by the use of language is the most salient.  

Likewise, for students to learn any part of curriculum content means, first and foremost, to make sense of the language used by the teacher and other students in classroom activities, and in the teaching materials involving both spoken and written language. Thus learning curriculum content on the one hand cannot be accomplished effectively without learning and using the language that communicates the meaning of the content, while at the same time curriculum content learning can be used as a powerful means for language development (cf. EUCIM-TE project and IALT).  


“Awareness and management of one’s own thought.” (Kuhn & Dean 2004: 270)


Kuhn, D. & Dean, D. (2004). A bridge between cognitive psychology and educational practice. Theory into Practice, 43(4), 268-273.


“Multiliteracy is a meaningful social and collaborative experience where students can work together with and learn from their peers and more experienced mentors. Multiliteracy is determined by social and cultural conventions that can be used and adapted based on specific purposes, modes and audiences. Therefore, a multiliteracy-based curriculum […] prepar[es] students to analyse multiple forms of text, discourses […] in multiple contexts and modes for multiple pursposes and multiple audiences” (Goldini 2008: 67, after Kern 1995, 2000, 2004, 2005)


Goldoni, F. 2008. Designing a Foreign Language Curriculum in Postsecondary Education Drawing from the Multiliteracy, Functionalist and Genre-Based Approaches. Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 5: 63-85.


Meaning-making and meaning-taking in social communication (including communication in school) make use of symbolic resources which include verbal as well as non-verbal (including gestures and bodily expressions) communication, visual/audio material, graphic representations and actions. In other words, communication is multi-modal.

Knowledge representation nowadays is in no way limited to written texts, it is multimodal, e.g. visual representations on paper and on the screen increasingly play an important role (Kress 2010). All content subjects have their ways of using multimodality and it is important that teachers are aware of the multimodal nature of classroom communication, and that students learn how to use the various modalities effectively. This should be an important part of teacher education and continuous professional development.


Kress, G. 2010. Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. London: Routledge.


“For us, a pluriliteracies approach captures not only literacy continua with different interrelated axes, but also an emphasis on Literacy practices in sociocultural contexts, the hybridity of literacy practices afforded by new technologies, and the increasing interrelationship of semiotic systems.” (García et al. 2007: 215)  


Ofelia García, Lesley Bartlett, JoAnne Kleifgen. 2007. From biliteracy to pluriliteracies. In Auer, P. & Li Wei (eds.) Handbook of Multilingualism and Multilingual Communication. Berlin: De Gruyter: 207-228. 


"A register is [...] a configuration of meanings that are typically associated with a particular situational configuration of field, mode, and tenor. But since it is a configuration of meanings, a register must also, of course, include the expressions, the lexico-grammatical and phonological features, that typically accompany or REALISE these meanings." (Halliday and Hasan 1989: 38-39) 


Halliday, M.A.K. & Hasan, R. 1989. Language, Context, and Text. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


“The term translanguaging, as originally proposed by Cen Williams (1994), refers to Welsh-English bilingual pedagogical practices where students hear or read a lesson, a passage in a book or a section of work in one language and develop their work in another […] input and output are deliberately in a different language and are systematically varied (Baker 2001, 281; 2003, 82)”. (Hornberger & Link 2012: 268) Nowadays translanguaging is often used to “describe the usual and normal practice of ‘bilingualism without diglossic functional separation’”. (Creese & Blackledge 2010).


Creese, A. & Blackledge, A. 2010. Translanguaging in the Bilingual Classroom: A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching. The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 94/1: 103-115

Hornberger, N. H. & Link, H. 2012. Translanguaging and transnational literacies in multilingual classrooms: A biliteracy lens. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 15/3: 261-278.

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