When asked to provide a testimonial for the Multiliteracies Project facilitated by Drs Michèle Anstey and Geoff Bull I welcomed the opportunity. As principal of a medium sized primary school I was looking for something different to the usual short term workshop / conference approach to professional development. I held a belief for many years that this mostly ‘one-off inoculation’ approach did little to convert new information and learning into an actual and sustained approach to classroom pedagogy and practice. I also wanted something that would allow teachers that ranged from novice to innovator (not to mention the resistors) to engage in a process that gave teachers a degree of control, and that was personally meaningful and relevant, regardless of the starting point. Just a few steps for some teachers are actual quantum leaps in thinking and renewed interest and passion.
The Multiliteracies Project fulfilled many, if not all, of these criteria. The Multiliteracies Matrix provided teachers the opportunity to reflect on their current practice in the company of their peers against benchmarks of successful practice. It also provided the platform for selecting areas for growth. This became the backbone of an Action Plan which needed to conform to a verification process, and therefore ensure some rigour and accountability.
One of the most exciting, but certainly challenging aspects of the project, was the requirement for teachers to record and transcribe their lessons. This component produces the most angst and resistance, but ultimately, the most learning. It is crucial that teachers are supported by the team through this, but also equally crucial, that it is not compromised or watered down. The importance of teachers genuinely examining what they think they say and do in their classroom versus what they actually do and say, cannot be understated, if there is a commitment to translating theory into practice.
From what I have written above it is obvious that professional facilitation is essential. Geoff and Michèle have incredible knowledge and experience in the area of literacy but their ability to connect with adult learners, to engage them in meaningful processes, to support individuals sensitively, yet still to challenge and deal with the resistors in a positive way, is what keeps the project on track.
In this brief snapshot I cannot detail all of the outcomes of the Multiliteracies Project . What I can say is that Celebration Day where teachers shared their learning (again a high level of expectation and accountability is introduced by this as a requirement) was one of the most professionally rewarding experiences of my career. It was revitalising seeing teachers admire and value each other’s work. It created a sense of being part of a real profession and being real professionals. How often does that happen in schools in reality?
One of the other interesting outcomes of the process has been transferability. When teachers develop their Action Plans the focus can seem somewhat narrow. What I have found is that the knowledge and experience gained in a smaller area, but in some depth, suddenly becomes transferable to the whole panacea of good teaching practice. It certainly broadens teachers’ perspective of what constitutes good literacy pedagogy that transcends subject areas and individual syllabi.
If you want these kinds of outcomes for your own staff, and are prepared to ride out the challenges, the Multiliteracies Project can take you there; the rewards for your school and teaching staff are certainly worth the journey.