PGCE secondary English students' understanding of visual material as an aspect of multimodal communication

  • Robert Stephen Roberts

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The research makes an original contribution to the understanding of multimodal communication in Secondary English Initial Teacher Education. The thesis describes, through a case study, how and why a cohort of PGCE Secondary English students used visual material in preparing their pedagogical texts for the classroom. The study shows that, though PGCE Secondary English students’ personal orientation to multimodal communication influenced their use of visual material, their pupils’ knowledge and experience of ‘the digital realm’ was not recognized.

    This descriptive case study, as insider research, began with a survey of the 2016-2017 PGCE Secondary English cohort (15 students) on the presence of visual material in their teaching. Subsequently, 5 PGCE Secondary English students were interviewed about their use of visual material and provided exemplars from their practice. 14 pedagogical texts, lesson plans and evaluations were analysed to consider how PGCE students’ use of visual material expressed their awareness and understanding of multimodal communication. Typological contrasts were developed between the PGCE tutor’s interests in multimodal communication; the PGCE Secondary English students’ understanding of the role of visual material in English teaching; and the design of the PGCE Secondary English students’ lesson resources.

    The PGCE Secondary English students’ attitudes towards the role of visual material in learning were ambivalent (enthusiasm for potential benefits undermined by scepticism about the suitability for all pupils). The PGCE Secondary English students regarded visual material as a catalyst for discussion in their lessons (and as a means of inclusion for pupils with identified learning needs) but were surprised by the creativity of pupils’ interpretation and challenged by the ethical dimensions of using visual material in the classroom. The effects of their choice of visual material on the quality of pupils’ learning were not recognised in the PGCE Secondary English students’ written reflections on practice and this aspect of their practice was not a major focus of professional development dialogue with their mentors.

    The sample of pedagogic texts demonstrated that, despite the PGCE Secondary English students’ confidence in the power of the visual to stimulate pupils’ vocabulary development, the design of their pedagogic texts was dominated by the requirements of examination practice and showed limited understanding of the relationship between language and the visual.

    The case study findings have implications for the development of multimodal pedagogy in Initial Teacher Education.
    Date of AwardApr 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorSandra Williams (Supervisor) & Brian Marsh (Supervisor)


    • Visual Material
    • Multimodal Communication
    • Initial Teacher Education
    • Secondary English

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