Rethinking Multimodal Literacy in Theory and Practice

by Elena Domínguez Romero (Volume editor) Jelena Bobkina (Volume editor) Svetlana Stefanova Radoulska (Volume editor) Carmen Herrero (Volume editor)
©2023 Edited Collection 296 Pages


Rethinking Multimodal Literacy in Theory and Practice highlights the need for an interdisciplinary approach to effectively address the complexities of concepts, tools, and processes in educational settings. This volume aims to contribute to developing the interconnection between a multimodal approach to pedagogies and multiliteracies development with particular attention to teaching critical thinking skills. It provides valuable insights into current challenges in specific educational domains and offers a wide range of multimodal practices, complemented by special attention to improving participants’ multiliteracies. As such, it is a valuable resource for those seeking to understand and implement effective multimodal teaching practices.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Conceptualizing multimodality in literacy research and teaching
  •  Multimodal analytical perspectives on literacy research and critical teaching experiences
  • Implications of multimodal theories for literacy research and pedagogy
  • Exploring the multimodal affordances of pedagogical materials and activities to foster an inclusive and transformative language pedagogy
  • Minorities in a transglobal world: “Transcultural Studies Project” as a multimodal critical creativity experience for undergraduate students
  • Gamified learning experiences in visual literacy and language learning
  • Feminist audiovisual literacy in the teaching of Spanish as a second and foreign language: A critical analysis template for teaching materials
  • Training language teachers to use short films in the language classroom: Innovations and challenges
  • Art and technology for listening comprehension: A multimodal framework for classroom implementation of self-created videos
  • Multimodal framework for visual literacy and critical thinking instruction
  • Observation and reading on the Covid-19 covers: A case study in Design and Visual Communication
  • Manga and anime
  • Wordless books as multimodal resources to improve multiliteracy in primary learners
  • From
  • Integrating visual literacy and language learning through Instagram: Reflections from ESP adult learners
  • Notes on Contributors


The wide range of scholarly works in fields of enquiry such as film and media studies, cultural studies, linguistics, and education demonstrates the exponentially expanding interest in multimodality over the past two decades (see, e.g., Bateman & Schmidt, 2012; Djonov & Zhao, 2014; Kress et al., 2014). The creation of a new SAGE journal, Multimodality & Society, whose first issue was published in 2021, testifies to the growing body of literature on multimodality. Multimodal methodologies, based on Gunther Kress’s idea that “language, whether as speech or as writing, is one as many available for representation and for making meaning” (2012, p. 37), have gained in popularity, showing beyond doubt the relevance of different theoretical perspectives and their practical application in the classroom. Unlike traditional studies in foreign language teaching, which focus mainly on language, in multimodal approaches language is just one of the multiple modes for meaning-making and communication. Although studies show that “multimodal resources integrate naturally to facilitate language teaching and learning in an orderly, structured and goal-oriented manner in classroom lessons” (Tan et al., 2016, p. 253), the multimodal turn reveals the need to integrate the development of multiliteracies in our understanding of effective communication. The changing nature of learning environments, which involve rapidly evolving digital practices and media affordances, renders certain conventional approaches obsolete and requires greater flexibility and faster adaptability of the teaching process to the new multi-semiotic and multisensory virtual learning environments.

A recent trend in multimodal research and practice highlights the need for a closer connection and intersection between disciplines in order to effectively address the intricacies of concepts, tools, and processes in educational settings. As Jewitt, Bezemer and O’Halloran rightly point out, a multimodal approach implies “a recognition of the need to move beyond the empirical boundaries of existing disciplines and develop theories and methods that can account for the ways in which we use gesture, inscription, speech and other means together in order to produce meanings” (2016, p. 2). Along the same lines, in their Making Sense: Reference, Agency and Structure in a Grammar of Multimodal Meaning, Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis draw from linguistics, philosophy and history to develop a new grammar of multimodality and argue that “in a time when the disruptions in ordinary life are so disorienting, a wide-ranging interdisciplinary approach is necessary” (2020, p. 3).

Building on the call for an intersectional approach to multimodal theory and practice, we would like to add yet another element to the equation. As we see it, the full potential of multimodality comes into view only if the agency of the participants is taken into account, enabling them to deal with new practices critically. Hence, the overall objective of the volume is to contribute to the theoretical and practical development of the interconnection between a multimodal approach to pedagogies and multiliteracies development with special attention to teaching critical thinking skills. The book brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines who explore different sets of theoretical, analytical, and methodological perspectives and their implementation in a variety of social and educational contexts. It provides valuable insights into current challenges in specific educational domains and offers a wide range of multimodal practices, complemented by a special attention to improving participants’ multiliteracies.

The volume is divided into two parts: Part I Conceptualizing multimodality in literacy research and teaching draws on expanding multimodal theories for literacy research and teaching, and Part II Multimodal framework for visual literacy and critical thinking instruction revolves around implementing multimodal resources for visual literacy and critical thinking.

Frank Serafini opens the volume with claims for the need to expand the analytical frameworks used to date to make sense of texts, events, and spaces by including ideological frames, critical social theories, and ethnographic methods. He states that it is essential to develop a curriculum that supports this multi-definition of literacy so that teachers understand how to take full advantage of multimodal resources and introduce students to the strategies necessary to understand these ensembles. Serafini focuses on the elementary curriculum, particularly the visual images and the design features of complex picturebooks. His argument provides an excellent starting point for the volume and applies to all educational levels and multimodal text types. In line with Serafini, Anna Costantino advocates the need to foster professional development and create opportunities to enhance inclusive and transformative language pedagogies. According to Costantino, the benefits of multimodal pedagogical materials and activities we engage in day-to-day classroom life can challenge conventional meanings, both epistemically and practically, and create new ones that significantly enrich the lives of learners. This requires embracing a practitioner-enquiry approach to classroom activities, which emerge as creative, expansive, and attuned to life itself in all its manifestations, both inside and outside the language classroom. Consequently, formative events should be viewed as opportunities to create communities of practice where new materials, activities, and issues are addressed expansively in terms of creatively improving teaching practice, rather than in terms of deficit remediation or convenient additions to teacher toolkits. Professional development should also offer opportunities to engage in enquiry processes to understand the learning and teaching environment and challenge its taken-for-granted aspects.

Against taken-for-granted education, and in line with Serafini and Costantino, Karine Chevalier and Elvira Anton reflect upon the need to create new multimodal teaching methodologies and assessment practices to accommodate the rich transcultural identities of modern language students in higher education and to offer a place for minorities in a transglobal world. The authors state that more practical cases must be analysed to complement a growing body of emerging research on new learning and teaching processes and pedagogies, including literacy practices in digital media in diverse contexts. Although their focus is on higher education, their claim can be extended to all levels of education.

Esther Edo-Agustín examines how game-based pedagogical resources offer a wide range of learning opportunities for a multimodal and globalized world that requires new pedagogical approaches. The author carries out a critical review of the existing literature on the pedagogical implications of gamification applied to language teaching and visual literacy. She also shares ideas for the implementation of educational interventions that connect visual literacy, language teaching and gamification. Focusing on teaching Spanish as a second and foreign language (L2), Natalia Contreras advocates for the integration of film and feminist education for fostering intercultural competence. Contreras’s chapter proposes a tool aimed at critically evaluating audiovisual teaching materials for L2 teaching to determine whether they contribute to the development of film literacy and critical competence on gender stereotypes and biases. By focusing on teaching resources, her analysis seeks to overcome the inequality and “neutralisation” of the gender perspective that prevails in L2 teaching practices.

With a particular interest in teacher training, Carmen Herrero and Isabelle Vanderschelden share the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI)-funded Teacher Training Project. They developed a framework for embedding film in modern foreign language teaching within the project context. They also led a teacher training programme focused on using short films as an innovative method to integrate intercultural competence and film literacy into existing modern language syllabus in secondary schools and higher education in the UK. Their experience can be transferred to any language teaching/learning context in any country. In this same vein, Elena Domínguez and Jelena Bobkina round off Part I by reporting on work carried out in the context of a research project on innovation in teaching in higher education conducted at the Complutense University of Madrid in collaboration with the Sorolla Museum and the Museum of Romanticism, both in Madrid (Spain), in 2015–2020. The project followed a four-stage pedagogical model of threefold nature: multimodal, interlinguistic, and interdisciplinary. It aimed at implementing self-developed video materials and facilitating language learning and teaching through various textual modes. The fundamental premise was that socially and academically, language learners can benefit from visual art education in terms of positive identity construction, negotiation of shared meanings, and celebration of students’ diverse linguistic and cultural capital.

Cristina Ferreira opens Part II sharing an experience based on dissecting magazine covers developed in the curricular unit of Design and Visual Communication within a course of Communication Sciences at the University of Porto. She focuses on visual literacy and critical thinking to emphasise that images play a crucial role in shaping perception and cognition associated with the development of visual culture. Similarly, Barry Kavanagh integrates a multimodal framework into his course based on the Japanese manga and anime Demon Slayer to challenge students to critically examine cultural, social and political issues, fostering their ability to demonstrate an understanding and application of critical thinking skills and intercultural awareness. Lorena Mancebo and Silvia Pellicer-Ortín propose the use of wordless books and multimodal and communicative pedagogies in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Primary classroom. The authors share their conviction that wordless books are extremely suitable didactic resources for the last stage of Primary Education. The results of their small-scale study, designed and implemented in three classrooms in year five with the aim of improving multiliteracy in Primary learners, show an improvement of students’ English language and multimodal skills.

David Geneste and Alfonso Sánchez Moya focus on the use of multimodal resources to integrate visual literacy, learning, and teaching for vocational and specific purposes. Geneste primarily discusses the classroom implementation of the IKEA website at the Postsecondary College of Woodworking, Furniture, and Interior Design in the Netherlands. The author intends to provide educators with methodological principles and tools to exploit authentic multimodal resources in teaching and learning English for vocational purposes. Sánchez Moya looks at the inclusion of technology and social networks in teaching processes to dig deeper into the applications and perceptions around Instagram in English for specific purposes contexts. The author provides valuable advice on incorporating Instagram in remote teaching-learning environments. His findings delve into the usefulness of using Instagram posts and stories in this specific learning context.

The interdisciplinary nature of the contributions included in this volume demonstrates the scope of multimodal perspectives across languages and cultural practices in different countries. This book aims to become a reference for language teachers, trainers and researchers working in the field of multimodal literacy.

The editors


This research was funded by Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER) / European Regional Development Fund and Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Gobierno de España (MCIN) / Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation [Grant Number PID2021-125327NB-I00].


  • Bateman, J., & Schmidt, K. H. (2012). Multimodal Film Analysis: How Films Mean. Routledge.
  • Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2020). Making Sense: Reference, Agency and Structure in a Grammar of Multimodal Meaning. Cambridge University Press.
  • Djonov, E., & Zhao, S. (2014). Critical Multimodal Studies of Popular Discourse. New Routledge.
  • Jewitt, C., Bezemer, J., & O’Halloran, K. L. (2016). Introducing Multimodality. Routledge.
  • Kress, G. (2012). Multimodal Discourse Analysis. In J. P. Gee & M. Handford (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis (pp. 35–50). Routledge.
  • Kress, G., Jewitt, C. L., Ogborn, J., & Tsatsarelis, C. (2014). Multimodal Teaching and Learning: The Rhetorics of the Science Classroom. Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Tan, S., O’Halloran, K., & Wignell, P. (2016). Multimodal Research: Addressing the Complexity of Multimodal Environments and the Challenges for CALL. ReCALL, 28(3), 253–273. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344016000124

I Multimodal analytical perspectives on literacy research and critical teaching experiences


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2023 (October)
Multimodal theories Literacy research Visual literacy Critical teaching Language pedagogy
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2023. 296 pp.

Biographical notes

Elena Domínguez Romero (Volume editor) Jelena Bobkina (Volume editor) Svetlana Stefanova Radoulska (Volume editor) Carmen Herrero (Volume editor)

Elena Domínguez Romero is Associate Professor of English Language and Linguistics at the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). Jelena Bobkina, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics Applied to Science and Technology at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain). Svetlana Stefanova is a professor at the International University of La Rioja (Spain). She holds a PhD in English. Carmen Herrero is Principal Lecturer of Spanish Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. She leads the research group Film, Languages and Media Education (FLAME).


Title: Rethinking Multimodal Literacy in Theory and Practice
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298 pages