Date of Award

Fall 1-10-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Gertrude Tinker Sachs, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Janice Fournillier, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Peggy Albers, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Amy Seely Flint, Ph.D.


Despite 21st Century technology, our nation’s high schools deliver a print-centric curriculum driven by high-stakes tests. A majority of states have adopted Common Core State Standards that incorporate producing and consuming multiple media texts. Some teachers have begun to include multimodal activities but few are exploiting the affordances of multimodal composition specifically for the benefit of English learners. Public high school teachers hold deficit views of English learners and fail to offer them challenging, creative tasks.

Framed by the complementary sociocultural theories of ecological linguistics (van Lier, 2004), multimodality (Kress, 2010), and identity (Gee, 2001; Norton, 2000), this qualitative case study examined the process and product of high school English learners composing multimodally with digital video. Four questions guided the study: 1) What can we learn from adolescent English learners engaged in composing with video? 2) What identities do adolescent ELs explore while engaging in multimodal communication? 3) What processes do ELs engage in as they compose multimodally? 4) How do their multimodal compositions contribute to our understanding of ELs?

Participants were enrolled in an elective English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class at a public high school during Spring semester of 2012. Data included student generated lesson artifacts, audio/video recordings, researcher journal, and participants' video compositions. Data were analyzed through an ongoing, recursive cycle to determine themes, categories, and trends. Visual and video data were examined through visual discourse analysis (Albers, 2007b; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006) and multimodal interaction analysis (Norris, 2004).

Addressing the process and product of learning to read and compose visual and video texts, this dissertation examines 3 pairs of student participants and their video compositions. It reveals English learners working collaboratively and creatively, exploring imagined identities, showing investment in learning, engaging in critical analysis, and effectively communicating through multiple modes. Multimodal analysis of three student videos revealed four patterns of multimodal design; less is less, layered modes, less is more, and overlapping modes. The study redefines English learners as multilingual, multimodal communicators. It illustrates the complexity and reveals the benefit of incorporating multimodal activities and provides a model for fostering multilingual, multimodal communicators.