Amelie LemieuxMount Professor takes a multimodal approach to teaching and learning

For as long as she can remember, Dr. Amélie Lemieux has always had a passion for learning and literacy in all forms. As a young child, Amélie accompanied her parents on daily trips to the library where she gained an appreciation for the way books could transcend experiences.

“My parents were both educators and they didn’t put pressure on the kinds of books that I needed to take out from the library. This gave me flexibility and choice. I was fascinated by atlases, maps and loved reading comics, playing classic video games, taking photographs and remixing videos.”

With a passion for both English and French, it is no surprise that Amélie went on to pursue her BA in French Literature and Translation, an MA in Education and a PhD in Literacies. The shift from translation studies to a focus on multimodality happened organically: both fields are about adapting a language to another and creating meaning. When asked what intrigued her about literacy education, she replied “Literacy is the area through which we make sense of the world – it goes beyond words. What we observe is that education is sometimes moving in parallel with [but separate from] educational technology, and it should instead move with it and be informed by it.”

As a Professor of Literacies within the Faculty of Education at the Mount, Amélie is hoping to challenge her students by having them reflect on their own learning practices and identify how learning takes place beyond traditional means. She plans to bring her research on aesthetigrams into her teaching. Aesthetigrams are defined as “participant-created visual maps that document an individual’s interactions with artworks moment by moment” (White & Lemieux, 2017, p. xii).

Learning as a meaning-making process

“My research on aesthetigrams is building on the work of visual art education scholar Boyd White at McGill University. It’s about getting to know what engagement means in classrooms and in research settings,” said Amélie. “For example, there is a lot of reflection and emotion in reading and viewing films. These experiences are diverse and situational. We need to look at affect in literacy studies by taking into account things like the emotion of the reader and how they are perceiving things in that moment.”

In 2012 and 2015, Amélie put these concepts into action by completing research projects at two high schools and a CEGEP in the Montreal area. She observed students’ reactions to artwork and asked them to complete pre- and post-tests that traced their literacy habits related to a film and a play. The students were also asked to submit a portfolio where they developed visual maps (aesthetigrams), wrote poems and a short essay to depict differences between works of art they had chosen. The students’ portfolios demonstrated advancement in their comprehension and reactive abilities to both the film and play, thus enhancing their holistic learning. What came out of these studies is a detailed framework to understand engagement patterns in readers and viewers. While students’ first visual maps demonstrated general moments of response, their subsequent maps revealed new learnings, drawing on expectation, anticipation and comparison.

Amélie fine-tuned her knowledge of multiliteracies last year with CRC and Professor Jennifer Rowsell at Brock University. As project lead of an ongoing SSHRC-funded project called Maker Literacies, Jennifer welcomed Amélie to her research team in the role of post-doctoral research fellow. Noted Amélie: “We work so well together. Jennifer Rowsell embodies the definition of a leading scholar in multiliteracies. She understands the field in ways that account for the larger scope and new directions in literacy research globally and locally. She gets what needs to be done and why. Her mentorship and guidance are exceptional, and she is conducting cutting-edge projects in the Niagara region and internationally.” As part of the scholarship deriving from this project, an article on maker education will be published in the upcoming September issue of Language Arts.

Amélie is hopeful that through her work, she can help researchers and teachers understand the importance of learning as a meaning-making process. She is eager to assist educators in enhancing engagement in their classrooms. “Engagement is plural and diverse, something we sometimes take for granted as educators. Before we can enhance engagement in the classroom, we need to understand what it is. Teachers have an opportunity to guide students in discovering their own responses to literature and the arts.”

The power of reflection and transaction in learning

Amélie is also the co-author of the book Mapping Holistic Learning: An Introductory Guide to Aesthetigrams, which examines the kinds of values that are mobilized by literature and arts. The book challenges traditional-based learning and focuses on transactional approaches to learning.

“We are heading towards a time in literacy education where it goes beyond just the person—we now look at individual interactions with the material. Ultimately, a book doesn’t come to life, if the reader is not there. With mapping, we stop and situate what we are going through and how we are learning.” Amélie hopes that the book will provide educators with greater insight on the contextual factors that impact learning, specifically related to arts and literature.

Amélie describes herself as someone who lives and breathes digital literacies as she uses many different digital platforms to engage in research, teach and connect with students and colleagues. “It is a part of who I am. I build my own websites and am interested in learning new technologies.” And while Amélie is passionate about sharing her knowledge, she believes that learning is a two-way street. “I’m always looking to know how I can learn from my students and how we can collaborate. Professors are forever students. They just never quit learning. I’ve done my job if I’ve challenged my students’ thinking and given them some tools to move forward in the work they do.”

Bringing diverse perspectives to the classroom

In the classroom, Amélie likes to link theories with practice to generate deeper understanding of what people do and why they are doing it. She places a strong emphasis on access, diversity and reconciliation—key values that align with those of the Mount. “I have integrated diverse perspectives into my syllabi. We will include Indigenous perspectives, critical race theory and feminist theory to really work towards decolonizing the English language arts curriculum.”

When Amélie isn’t researching, teaching or participating in speaking engagements, she loves to play tennis and enjoys DSLR photography. “I’m inspired by the communities I live in or visit. I appreciate colours, sounds, materials and silence too.”

The Mount is lucky to have Amélie’s fresh perspective and love for teaching and learning.

To learn more about Amélie Lemieux, follow her on Twitter at @ame_lemieux or visit her website.