Multigenre Digital Inquiry Projects
and Preservice Teachers
Amy Piotrowski, Ph.D.
Marla Robertson, Ph.D.
Jennifer Smith, Ph.D.
What is a Multigenre Digital Inquiry
● We had our preservice teachers choose a topic related to literacy
teaching that they wanted to learn more about. They then researched
their topic and created a website with pieces in multiple genres to
share what they found.
Why the MDIP?
● We wanted to engage our preservice teachers in
researching topics about teaching that they were
● We also wanted preservice teachers to write up their
findings in a format other than the traditional research
● Inquiry empowers students to explore topics that they are
interested in and to share their learning in varied ways.
● Authentic topics, interesting questions, scaffolded
instruction, opportunity to reflect, and sharing findings with
people beyond the classroom are hallmarks of effective
● According to Tom Romano, multigenre papers arise from “research,
experience, and imagination . . . composed of many genres and
subgenres, each piece self-contained, making a point of its own, yet
connected to other pieces by theme and content and sometimes by
repeated language, images, and genres . . . may contain many
voices, not just the author’s . . . the challenge for the writer -- is to
make such a paper hang together as one unified whole.”
● Past research on multigenre writing suggests that it
engages students, gets students to cross genre
boundaries in their writing, and get students to expand
their view of what counts as text.
Digital Multigenre Writing
● Having preservice teachers write digitally draws on
Lankshear and Knobel’s assertion “it is increasingly
imperative for teachers themselves to experience and
understand what it means to be fully engaged in new
Digital Multigenre Writing
● We also draw on Tyner’s assertion that digital tools
“collapse sight, sound, and motion” which then
“accelerates experimentation” in multiple media
● Amy’s class - a class on teaching writing for English Teaching majors
seeking grades 6-12 English certification
● Marla’s class - an elementary Language Arts methods class that
focuses on teaching writing and consists of students who will be
teaching elementary grades K-6
● Jen’s class - a graduate literacy course and consists of students who
will be teaching either elementary or secondary grades
● Once students had their topic, they found 8 sources and wrote an
● Our preservice teachers had a create a website with a Dear Reader
Letter, an essay, two substatative pieces, and three shorter pieces.
Our list of substantive and shorter pieces modified from Wickstrom
● Each of the five pieces had an accompanying memo.
● See example project:
● We got informed consent to collect data from a total of 33
● We analyzed Beginning of Semester Questionnaire,
MDIPs, End of Semester Questionnaire.
● Choice and inquiry lead to expansive views of writing
● Support throughout the project was essential
● Affective experiences illustrate academic, personal, and
Choice and Inquiry
● Among our 33 participants, they chose 26 different topics related to
● One student commented that it was “surprising to see what kind of
information from my research was expressed in different genres.”
● Another student: “Different genres take on different perspectives and
ways of thinking that involve deeper understanding of the topics and
allow you to look at the ideas in new ways.”
● Choice with structure - students found genre list useful.
● Modeling of genres and tech tools key to project success.
● Peer collaboration: it was helpful to “talk to someone
about problems I came across, frustrations I had, share
new things I had learned, or get a second opinion on
● Student comments on questionnaire and in memos show high levels
of engagement with project and excitement to share their work.
● One student said that the poem she created was her strongest piece
because it “allowed me to express something very important in a very
visual and meaningful way.”
● One student remarked, “I have learned that writing is not just some
separate, sterile thing. It crosses into art, reading, speaking, science,
● Through this assignment, our preservice teachers learned the
difficulty of finding a genre to fit the purpose of the writing, but
simultaneously reconceptualized the definition of genre and expanded
their view of writing. The technology tools that were daunting at the
beginning of the project were used successfully, and preservice
teachers began envisioning how they might use these same tools in
● Amy Piotrowski
○ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
○ Twitter: @piotrowskiamy
● Marla Robertson
○ Email: email@example.com
● Jennifer Smith
○ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org