ALC8021 : Understanding Multimodal Communication

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module introduces the students to a range of approaches to understanding spoken language and gesture-in-use in Applied Linguistics and beyond. It provides students with an awareness and understanding of the importance of discourse that exists ‘beyond the word’, in real life contexts. Students will be introduced to on-going research in the field, focusing specifically on multimodal interaction analytic methods, discussing how these may be used for investigating patterns of gesture use in institutional settings such as the language classroom, healthcare and instruction. It draws on approaches used in the study of spoken discourse such as micro-ethnography, conversation analysis and context analysis, and covers specific theoretical topics which include language and context, capturing, coding and querying gesture-in-use, adapting corpus methods for multimodal analysis and the generic features of spoken language.
As the module progresses, students will have the opportunity to carry out guided analyses of gesture-in-use in case studies of institutional environments, such as teaching and learning. This will allow them to start questioning, for example:
•       Patterns of gesture used by teachers and how it relates to the content/methods used in their teaching.

•       Do teachers gesture in different ways according to what they are trying to teach?
o How do patterns of gestures used by the teachers relate to the content of the lesson?
•       Can gestures be used as a teaching ‘device’?

•       Gesture use by students and how this relates to the words spoken by them.
o Do students who perform ‘better’ use gesture-in-talk in a different way to others?
The relationship between gestures used by teachers and students, when communicating with each other.

•       How do they mirror, complement and contradict each other and what possible impact might this have?
How gestures are used by teachers and learners of different cultures.
o How are they similar/different and what affect does this have on communication?
As part of their assignment, students will be given the opportunity to examine specific features of language and gesture-in-use as evidenced by multimodal institutional discourse, in order to answer similar lines of enquiry to those seen above.

Outline Of Syllabus

Week 1. Introduction to Multimodal Analysis. Rationale and theoretical underpinnings

Week 2. Multimodal interaction as object of study

Week 3. Institutional interaction as embodied practice

Week 4. Multimodal analysis as an applied science

Week 5. The body and its natural environment I – doing things with objects

Week 6. Carrying out case studies

Week 7. Gesture and classification

Week 8. The body and its natural environment II – the socially constructed body

Week 9. Multimodal discourse analysis

Week 10. Methodological procedures for carrying out multimodal communication analysis

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion138:0038:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1130:00130:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDissertation/project related supervision21:002:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will provide students with an overview of some of the more theoretical aspects of the module and also allow more ‘hands on’ workshop-type learning activities. The aim is to promote a discursive and dialogic type of learning environment in which learners exchange ideas and experiences under the guidance of the main tutor. Additional tutorial sessions will be offered around the times of the assignment to provide additional learning support. In addition, students will have an opportunity to discuss their work, reflections on the module and their own professional development through electronic learning support such as email and Blackboard.
A range of teaching and learning approaches will be used:
Tutor input - whole group

Small group discussion

Input by individual students (short presentations)
Independent learning through reading and personal research

Completion of coursework assignment
It is hoped that by using a range of approaches, learners will feel supported in their work and will gain confidence in this area. Learning is intended to be problem-based and most sessions are organised around specific tasks designed to develop key skills and new understandings. Learners will be involved in a dialogic and engaged methodology, in which they will have many opportunities to contribute to each session

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M1004500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment is designed to mirror the approach taken through the module: participants are tested on their ability to investigate in some detail one aspect of their teaching. They must demonstrate that they can identify an issue for investigation, describe (both orally and in writing) their intended approach and consider how their practices might change as a result of the process. Theory and practice will be integrated through the use of literature and a practical application.

Students will be asked to think of a specific area of focus that they wish to analyse in recordings of classroom interaction, based on what they have learnt during the module (they will be given access to some pre-recorded data to use, or have the opportunity to select and utilize their own data, as desired). In consultation with the module leader, they will have the opportunity to answer their own line of enquiry regarding gesture-in-talk in the classroom. They may wish, for example, to explore whether certain forms of gesture are used when teachers are giving instructions or directions to the class and to compare how this may differ to patterns of gestures used when providing feedback, for example (and to consider the possible reasoning behind this).

Reading Lists