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Title: Teaching Primary Students to Design Viewer Perspective and Interactive Meaning in Their Animation Stories
Contributor(s): O'Brien, Annemaree (author); Unsworth, Leonard  (supervisor); Chan, Eveline  (supervisor)orcid ; Adlington, Rachael  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2018-10-26
Copyright Date: 2018-03-21
Thesis Restriction Date until: Access restricted until 2021-10-26
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Abstract: Meaning-making is at the heart of all literate practices. Teaching students how to make meaning through creating multimodal texts is increasingly important as digital, screen-based technologies extend everyday communication practices beyond traditional print literacy to incorporate complex new semiotic knowledge. This case study, undertaken in an Australian primary school, examines the implementation of a pedagogy for teaching primary students how to design visual meaning in creating animation stories to gain more authorial control over their storytelling. Positioned within a critical gap between the potential afforded by new communication technologies, and the scarcity of empirical evidence for supporting teachers to plan and deliver quality instruction in teaching meaning-making in different modes, this research is both significant and timely.
Informed by systemic functional semiotics (SFS), this study identifies a systematic theorised account of the semiotic content knowledge teachers need to teach students to effectively design interactive meaning and viewer perspective in visual storytelling, using still and moving image semiotic resources. This specialised 'content knowledge' of what to teach was combined with teacher 'pedagogic knowledge' of how to best teach this as 'pedagogical content knowledge' (PCK). Three iterative pedagogical interventions were undertaken with different iterations of upper primary classes in the school over eighteen months, with informed, explicit, and scaffolded instruction around students creating their own animation stories. Evaluation of each intervention was based on the impact on student learning of the semiotic design content taught, judged through analysis of animation stories and interviews from a small sample of student exemplars identified for each intervention (ten in total). Based on these findings, the PCK was evaluated and refined across each of the interventions.
Evidence from this small case study suggests that explicitly teaching students to design interactive meaning and viewer perspective in their moving image stories can provide students with greater creative mastery over their storytelling. By the second intervention, students in the small sample examined were able to make informed and creative semiotic choices to achieve particular effects on their viewer, and to talk about why they made these design choices. In this emergent area of inquiry, the semiotic design knowledge developed through this case study contributes to the development of urgently needed pedagogic guidance for teaching primary school students how to make meaning in composing moving image texts.
Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 130204 English and Literacy Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl. LOTE, ESL and TESOL)
130302 Comparative and Cross-Cultural Education
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 390104 English and literacy curriculum and pedagogy (excl. LOTE, ESL and TESOL)
470401 Applied linguistics and educational linguistics
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 930299 Teaching and Instruction not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 160304 Teaching and instruction technologies
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Description: Publications during candidature:

O'Brien, A. (2014). Using focalisation choices to manipulate audience viewpoint in 3-D animation narratives: What do student authors need to know? In L. Unsworth and A. Thomas (Eds.), English Teaching and New Literacies Pedagogy: Interpreting and authoring digital multimedia in the classroom. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing Group.

Chandler, P. D., O'Brien, A., and Unsworth, L. (2010). Towards a 3-D multimodal curriculum for upper primary school. Australian Educational Computing, 25(1), 34-40.

Chandler, P. D., Unsworth, L., and O'Brien, A. (2012). Evaluation of students’ digital animated multimodal narratives and the identification of high-performing classrooms. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 13(3), 80-115.

O'Brien, A., Chandler, P. D., and Unsworth, L. (2010). 3-D multimodal authoring in the Middle Years: A research project. Synergy, 8(2). Retrieved from
Appears in Collections:School of Education
Thesis Doctoral

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