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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Literacy Teaching and Learning: Aims, Approaches and Pedagogies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Coursera


This course opens with an exploration of the social context and aims of literacy teaching and learning. It goes on to describe a range of historical and contemporary approaches to literacy pedagogy, including didactic, authentic, functional, and critical approaches. The course takes has a 'Multiliteracies' perspective, which aims to expand the definition of literacy to encompass today's multimodal communications, and the diversity of literacies across different social and culltural contexts. A Multiliteracies approach also suggests a broad range of activity types—experiential, conceptual, analytical and critical.

Recommended Background

This course is designed for people interested in literacy teaching and learning, including people who may wish to join education as a profession, practicing teachers interested in exploring future directions for a vocation that is currently undergoing transformation, and community and workplace leaders who regard their mission to be in part "educative."

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Take this Course for Credit at the University of Illinois

This course has the same content and anticipates the same level of contribution by students in the Assessment for Learning course offered to graduate certificate, masters, and doctoral level students in the Learning Design and Leadership Program in the College of Education at the University of Illinois.

Of course, in the nature of MOOCs many people will just want to view the videos and casually join some of the discussions. Some people say that these limited kinds of participation offer evidence that MOOCs suffer from low retention rates. Far from it – we say that any level of engagement is good engagement.

On the other hand, if you would like to take this course for credit at the University of Illinois, you will find more information about our program here:

And you can apply here:

The Learning Design and Leadership Series of MOOCs

This course is one of a series of eight MOOCs created by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis for the Learning Design and Leadership program at the University of Illinois. If you find this MOOC helpful, please join us in others!

e-Learning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age

New Learning: Principles and Patterns of Pedagogy

Assessment for Learning

Learning, Knowledge, and Human Development

Ubiquitous Learning and Instructional Technologies

Negotiating Learner Differences: Towards Productive Diversity in Learning

Literacy Teaching and Learning: Aims, Approaches and Pedagogies

Multimodal Literacies: Communication and Learning in the Era of Digital Media


  • The Aims of Literacy
    • This module explores the notion of "literacies" in the plural, and in particular the concept of "Multiliteracies" coined by the presenters in this course as part of the New London Group. Literacy in the singular consists of the rigid rules of official standard languages, and is purely grounded in written text. Literacies in the plural, or multiliteracies, acknowledges that language use will vary greatly from one cultural and social context to another, and that contemporary communication is increasingly multimodal, where written text is juxtaposed with, or supplemented by, image, sound, space, object, gesture, and speech. The module goes on to explore the evolution of human communication, and the patterns of communication in today's work, public, and community settings.
  • Theory and Practice of Literacies Learning and Teaching
    • In this module, we discuss the nature of pedagogy as the conscious design of learning activities. We introduce the idea of "knowledge processes" or activity types: experiential, conceptual, critical, and applied. In the case of literacies learning, experiential knowledge processes involve immersion in familiar and new texts. Conceptual knowledge processes include naming of the features of text, and developing theories of how these texts work to serve meaningful purposes. Analytical knowledge processes explore the contexts and purposes of texts. Applied knowledge processes engage learners in the creation of texts.
  • Didactic + Authentic Approaches to Literacy
    • This module begins with an overview of the range of activity types that might be found in literacies pedagogy. These are illustrated with some examples of literacies learning modules. It goes on to examine two major models of literacy pedagogy: didactic and authentic.
  • Functional + Critical Approaches to Literacy
    • Now we explore the remaining two of the four major traditions in literacy teaching and learning: functional and critical approaches to literacy. Our purpose in introducing these four major approaches has been to explore the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, as well as to advocate for the idea that literacy teaching and learning ideally involves a repertoire of different kinds of pedagogical moves or activity types.

Taught by

William Cope and Mary Kalantzis


4.5 rating at Coursera based on 76 ratings

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