Miss mek wi trai: Using Multiliteracies Pedagogy to Effect Changes in Jamaica Inner-city Grade 7 Students’ English Language Development


My four-month research project is the first recorded Jamaican study to explore if and how multiliteracies pedagogy (MLS) paired with sociocultural theory (SCT) can improve inner-city students’ English language development (ELD) and engagement. Jamaica is a diglossic society in which we speak different variations of either Jamaican Standard English (JSE) or Patois. Typically, most upper- and middle-class Jamaicans speak English, while most members of the Jamaican lower class speak Patois; hence, social class typically dictates Jamaican language abilities. However, English is the language of the Jamaican curriculum, employment, and power. All my participants attempted to learn JSE well because of the dominant belief that better knowledge of this English will improve their access to better-paying jobs and higher education. I conducted my research in the following sequential manner: 1) a month of classroom observation of the original English teacher’s classroom; 2) two months where I taught my experiential communicative lessons inspired by multiliteracies pedagogy and sociocultural theory; 3) four student focus group interviews and one teacher interview; and, 4) document analysis of examples of students’ three individual work (two after-lesson reflections and a paragraph of narrative account). All of these data collection tools ensured that I captured my participants’ meaning-making and subjectivities. All my communicative activities paired grammar forms with the school’s modified version of the Jamaican Grade 7 curriculum and, to further engage my participants’, communicative activities based on their socio-cultural knowledge. My research findings support and diverge from the weight of evidence in multiliteracies pedagogy and sociocultural theory. On the one hand, my research findings support the dominant narratives from multiliteracies pedagogy and sociocultural theory about students' learning, development and student engagement. These findings, which are consistent with other multiliteracies iii and sociocultural based research revealed that participants became more engaged in their English learning during the experiential teaching that I conducted than they were in their original English language class. The majority of the students’ writing skills also improved. On the other hand, my research deviated from the dominant themes of multiliteracies and sociocultural theory research studies, which typically show a mutual relationship between the students’ emotional engagement, behavioural engagement and their learning. In my study, there was not a strong relationship between the students’ emotional engagement and their behavioural engagement; there was also no relationship between the students’ emotional engagement and improvement in language development. Unlike many multiliteracies studies in which most of the students are said to prefer the use of the home language, my research shows that participants would prefer to only speak in English in classes to better enhance and speed up their English learning. I recommend that teachers incorporate multiliteracies-inspired communicative activities in their English classes, as these activities engage students and promote English learning and development. I also suggest that multiliteracies researchers implement good behavioural strategies to ensure that students are engaged cognitively, emotionally and behaviourally. Moreover, in tandem with my student participants, I encourage teachers, future researchers and the Jamaican Ministry of Education to respect the students’ voices and agency, rather than merely incorporating their lived experiences in their school learning.



Table of Contents


Multi-literacy Pedagogy, Inner-city, Jamaica, Students