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Byline: Indra Devi S.


The increasingly multifarious non-linear and visual environment of today calls for a shift from the word-centred era of print literacy to multiliteracy practices in the teaching and learning of English for Specific Purpose-based courses in engineering schools. This study situates the Learning by Design Model as a framework in the teaching of oral presentations to undergraduate engineers in a Technical University. A range of multimodal resources and activities were integrated into the instructional process to create a technologically rich learning environment. Using classroom observations this study draws on the knowledge processes and mediation of oral communication that was evident while learning was in progress. Observation data reveals that the multiliteracy approach to learning instruction offers the low proficiency undergraduates various opportunities to express themselves greater possibilities for meaning construction and critiquing.

The quantitative findings reveal that their most favoured oral communication activity include reflecting on their video recorded oral presentations demonstrating on the way to create digital video using DSLR camera and discussing on oral presentations in You-tube videos which seem to be representative of their participatory culture.

KEYWORDS: multiliteracy multimodal ESP sustainable global engineers


Today's increasingly globalized and pluralistic world has brought about massive transformation in our daily lives. Technological advancement is one of the most prominent transformations that have dominated the way people do things [1]. According to [2] with the explosion of the media environment the world is no longer experienced in a linear print-based manner but rather via digital and visual media. The pervasiveness of these media technologies in our lives has led to the emergence of new literacies. In response to this changing nature of literacy [3] posits that there is a need to reconceptualise and reshape the ways in which literacy learning and teaching are implemented in today's educational contexts.

Ref. [4]" asserts that there is a critical need to move from the traditional notion of literacy which was restricted to the ability of reading and writing to a new era of multiliteracies which is defined by [5] as the capacity to learn and use all forms of visual media and communication including pictures maps videos ideas and even body language.

This study is conducted to embed the new burgeoning literacy into the instruction of presentation skills in a course on English for Professional Communication which is an offshoot of English for Specific Purpose (ESP). The takers of this course are undergraduate engineers in a technical university in Malaysia. At root it addresses on the need to reconceptualise ESP through multiliteracy so as to identify the knowledge processes involved and the mediation of oral communication in the teaching of oral presentation skills. Besides the study also aims to investigate the types of multimodal-based oral communication activities that are most favoured by the undergraduates.


Ref. [6]" coined the term multiliteracies' to address the multiplicity of communication channels and mass media as well as cultural and linguistic diversity. The multiliteracies pedagogy suggests the use of multimodal resources which encompass five design elements that include linguistic visual audio gestural and spatial that learners must understand and be able to use. These theorists had envisioned that good teaching relies on four angles of learning and all the four need to be part of the learning process though not necessarily in any specific fixed sequence. The four angles include Situated Practice Overt Instruction Critical Framing and Transformed Practice which are necessary to inculcate the knowledge and skills of the 21st century learners.

Situated Practice or the immersion stage is a condition where the students are provided the opportunity to explore their existing knowledge and skills through the use of multimodal resources. In the Overt instruction Phase the students are exposed to making analysis and conceptualising using their existing knowledge. The Critical Framing phase includes activities involving critical analysis and interpretation. Finally in the Transformed Practice phase the learners transform their existing knowledge or meanings and skills to new social contexts thus designing new meanings and skills [7].

Cope and Kalantzis who were original members of The New London Group extended the component of multiliteracies pedagogy through the Learning by Design Model. They had simplified the concepts of Situated Practice Overt Instruction Critical Framing and Transformed Practice to core knowledge processes of experiencing conceptualizing analysing and applying [8]. According to Ref. [9]" the need for the construction of the Learning by Design Model is for the purpose of translating multiliteracies and Learning by Design Theory into practice. The four ways of knowledge processes were then extended to eight sub-categories [9] as in the following table:

Table 1: Learning by Design and Multiliteracies Equivalences [9]

Learning###by###Design###Multiliteracies Curriculum

Knowledge Processes###Orientations

Experiencing the Known

Experiencing the New###Situated Practice

Conceptualizing by Naming

Conceptualizing with Theory###Overt Instruction

Analysing functions

Analysing critically###Critical Framing

Applying appropriately

Applying Creatively###Transformed Practice

Ref. [10]" state that students can be considered multiliterate when they can solve problems think strategically interpret use live and paper texts that employ linguistic visual auditory gestural and spatial semiotic systems for social cultural political civic and economic purposes in socially and culturally diverse contexts. A study by [11] on Final Year Mechanical engineering undergraduates reveals that these Net Geners' have remarkable technological strengths and passions in deploying multimodal tools and hence the researchers advocate that these undergraduate engineers should be given the empowerment autonomy and independence so that they can become efficient and multiliterate learners.

Besides with the international nature of today's business opportunities and with the internationalization of engineering projects the engineering undergraduates of today need to be educated in a global context. This would enable them to succeed in a global multi-disciplinary marketplace. Ref. [12]" developed a list of desired attributes required of engineers to work in a global context. Out of the 20 attributes that were developed 2 attributes include the ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways methods and media (written verbal/oral graphic electronically etc.) and the ability to communicate effectively to both technical and non-technical audience. According to [13] a global engineer needs to be multiliterate and an all-rounder who maybe multilingual culturally diverse and aware of different unit applications.

They add that to become a truly global engineer undergraduate engineers need to be encouraged to generate their own ideas and discuss around given topics so as to keep them engaged and to develop the inherent principles of sustainability such as crossing boundaries. In this context they suggest on an increase use of technology and multimodal tools.

Anchored around such a global phenomenon language instructors need to refashion and realign their teaching approaches so that they are in sync with the present Net Geners' world that is mediated by technological lenses. Another fact that needs to be taken into consideration is that in language teaching and learning literacy is not a matter of correct usage as in the past. Instead the focus is supposed to be on the context and the various communication channels we are engaged with Ref. [14]". However the extent to which multiliteracy is implemented in today's classroom is questionable. Ref. [15]" states that the evolution from print literacy to multiliteracy has still not received sufficient attention in the field of ESP. In light of this the researcher finds that it is timely to shift the learning practices of the undergraduate engineers in the ESP-based course towards a new vista that is multiliteracy-based.


The research methodology employed in this case study is a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches. The qualitative data includes data retrieved from observation of the undergraduates' engagement in the knowledge processes and the mediation of oral communication while they participated in the multimodal activities throughout the four weeks of the instructional phase. Survey forms were generated to obtain quantifiable data on the most preferred multimodal oral communication activity. The Learning by Design Model by [9] is used as a framework in facilitating the teaching of oral presentations using a multimodal approach. As for the sample selection purposive sampling is used and it involves a total of fifteen 3rd-year engineering undergraduates from the Faculty of Manufacturing Engineering in a technical university in Malaysia. The respondents are takers of a course on English for Professional Communication.

They are selected based on their low achievement in the Malaysian University English Test (MUET).

This study took place over a period of four weeks and it encompasses in-class and out of class activities. The research instruments used in the study include The Learning by Design Template and a survey form on the most preferred multimodal oral communication activity. Using the 15 respondents the researcher observed how they mediate oral communication and the knowledge processes that were involved while they participated in the activities. The multimodal resources used include video clippings You- tube videos Power-point slides interactive group website ( and video recordings. Every activity was designed based on the Learning by Design Model by [9] and the Multiliteracies Curriculum Orientation [6][7]. Following is the implementation of the instructional phases by week.


The data was compiled and analysed based on the objectives of the study. Data based on the observation of the undergraduates' engagement in the mediation of oral communication and identification of knowledge processes was coded on the Leaning by Design template to identify the emerging themes. According to [16] learner engagement in a course can be determined if the instructor is able to identify the knowledge processes while the lessons are in progress based on the Learning by Design Model (LBDM). Besides upon determining learner engagement the instructor would be able to gauge if the learning outcomes or the so called knowledge objectives have been achieved.

In week 1 of this study the undergraduates were able to experience the new in the Situated Practice Phase when they

Table 2: Instructional Phase for Week 1

Week 1


1a. Brainstorm on types of presentations important aspects

of presentations and how to prepare for presentations

ased on video clippings.



comment or post.

Multimodal resource: Video clippings

2a. Discuss vocabulary and terms related to verbal and

non-verbal features e.g. intonation fillers etc.

2b.Watch You-tube videos on good and bad presentations

2c. Describe the physical delivery/body language

2d. Comment on the linguistic structures visual aids and

communicative ability of the presenters

2e. Ask and answer about the content of the You-tube


Multimodal resource: You-tube videos

Table 3: Instructional Phase for Week 2

###Week 2


###1. Discuss design elements on power-point slides

###in You-tube "How to give a killer presentation"

###2. Comment on the design elements

###Multimodal resource: Power-point slides

###3. Present on the given topics (A representative

###from each group)

###Comment on the positive and negative elements

###in the presentation (other members)

###4. Discuss on the visuals and non-verbal gestures

###in the images of personalities in the webpage on

###Oral Presentation in group website:

###Multimodal resource: Interactive group website


Table 4: Instructional Phase for Week 3

Week 3


1. Discuss and list down in groups about the important

elements in a presentation.

2. Discuss on the elements that can be included as criteria

in the Assessment form.

3. Explain about the relevance of each criteria scaffolded

y instructor.

###Multimodal resource: Laptop and LCD

4. Appoint leader for every group.

5. Assign task for every member.

6. Submit project topic which is based on their technical


###Multimodal resource: Laptop and LCD

7. Threaded online discussion monitored by instructor in

Table 5: Instructional Phase for Week 4

Week 4

1. Presentation of technical report by groups and

instructor awards marks.

2. Video-record the presentations using smart phone (A

representative does this).

3. Write reflections based on peers' presentations while

the presentation is ongoing. Transfer the video recording

into a laptop for the purpose of class viewing later.

Multimodal resource: Smartphone laptop poster based

on technical report

5. Class viewing of the recordings self-reflection of

presentation based on the recordings and discussion

ased on both self-reflection and peer-reflection.

6. Students provide opinions on the viewing of the video

recorded presentations.

7. Instructor discusses on the marks and takes students'

justifications into consideration.

8a. Demonstration by class representative on how to

create digital video using DSLR camera and `Sony

Vegas' software

8b. Demonstration by class representative on how to

upload the created digital video into website.

8c. Question and Answer session

Out of Class Activity:

Digital Video creation and Upload video at website.

discussed and gave opinions about oral presentations. When they commented and discussed on the positive and negative features they were able to conceptualise by naming new terminologies in relation to presentations. Thus the knowledge objective for week 1 which includes listing out positive and negative aspects in oral presentations and identifying verbal and non-verbal features were achieved. The knowledge objectives for week 2 include the ability to comment on design elements in power-point slides analyse the positive and negative elements in a 2-minute presentation and evaluate the visuals and non-verbal communication based on the images of personalities in the interactive group website ( In the first activity the undergraduates were involved in the overt instruction phase where they conceptualized by naming and classifying terms like linguistic visual and audio to facilitate discussion on the design elements.

In the second and third activity they were involved in the Critical Framing phase as they analysed critically to identify positive and negative elements in the presentations visuals and images. Being engaged in these activities the undergraduates were able to develop a broad range of skills simultaneously while mediating oral communication by discussing presenting commenting and exchanging ideas. In week 3 they were required to be able to list the criteria for the Oral Presentation assessment Form plan a digital video creation project and facilitate an online threaded discussion in the group website. In achieving the first two objectives they were oriented to the Overt Instruction phase. In this phase they were involved in knowledge processes that include Conceptualising by theorising when they had to make generalizations on each criteria that includes body language visual aids creativity etc.

Then they conceptualized by naming when they had to classify the roles of every member in the video-creation project. Following this they were involved in the Transformed Practice phase as they applied appropriate information to facilitate communication with one another in the online threaded discussion. Throughout week 3 they mediated oral communication by discussing negotiating and responding directly to one another.

The knowledge objectives in week 4 required them to be able to present technical reports individually and to discuss on their reflections based on the presentations. In achieving the first knowledge objective they were involved in the Transformed Practice phase where they had to apply creatively so that there are elements of creativity in their presentations. Next in the Critical Framing phase they had to analyse functionally as they had to come up with logical connections while discussing on the reflections. Then the video-recording was transferred into a laptop for the purpose of class viewing.

During the viewing of the recordings the undergraduates discussed on their reflections of their peers' presentations. They were also able to reflect on their own presentation from the viewpoint of an audience. Then they were required to provide opinions on the activity. This enabled them to present their views and critiques. Next the instructor reveals on the marks awarded to every presenter followed by a discussion which takes students' justifications into consideration. The final activity is a demonstration by the class representative on how to create digital video and upload in the interactive website. This activity enabled the students to analyse logical connections in coming up with the digital video creation and thus steered them to be involved in the question and answer session.

Throughout the instructional weeks the undergraduates have been exposed to activities involving various digital and visual media and it is evident that this kind of exposure to real-world activities has fundamentally enabled them to mediate oral communication with increased autonomy. [17] fittingly postulates that multiliteracy practices enable students to move strictly from being consumers of digital media and technology to becoming communities of producers within the communities of practice they participate.

The various pedagogical choices in the LBDM which are termed as knowledge processes have promoted the undergraduates to think and to mediate oral communication in multiliterate ways. The survey instrument on The Most Preferred Multimodal Oral communication Activity' indicates that out of the 8 main activities that they had participated throughout the four weeks the three most favoured by the undergraduates according to preference are discussing on the reflections based on the video-recorded oral presentations (73.3%) followed by demonstrating on how to create digital video using DSLR camera (60%) and commenting and discussing on the verbal and non-verbal language in oral presentations in You-tube videos (53.3%). At this juncture it is important to note that these kinds of authentic activities that appeal to their personal desire would make learning more meaningful to them.


The findings of this study highlight that the teaching and learning of ESP-based courses should not be totally confined to traditional practices. Instead there should be an integration of multiliteracy perspectives and as advocated by [15] new literacy instruction in an ESP setting would be beneficial to the learners. This kind of exposure will provide the undergraduates opportunities to broaden their capacities within the structured ESP learning context. Thus this research brings to light that multiliteracy elements will be particularly beneficial to the undergraduates of today who are comfortable learning in environments that are highly visual and digital Besides the implications of this study suggests that the teaching of oral presentations for undergraduate engineers is planned in accordance with the Multiliteracies Approach and the LBDM. This would make a difference to student engagement and learning.

Besides it has the potential to promote the development of sustainable global engineers who would be able to address the 21st century living challenges. Based on the demands from industries for a transformation of graduate knowledge and competencies it is timely that curriculum renewal in the teaching of ESP is implemented.


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Publication:Science International
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Date:Dec 31, 2014

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