Bringing Inquiry Into Teacher
Education Courses: The Multigenre
Digital Inquiry Project
Amy Piotrowski, Ph.D.
Marla Robertson, Ph.D.
Jennifer Smith, Ph.D.
What is a Multigenre Digital
● 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 interested in.
● We also wanted preservice teachers to write up their findings in a format
other than the traditional research paper.
● 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 inquiry learning.
● 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
● Past work with 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 literacies practices”
Digital Multigenre Writing
● We also draw on Tyner’s assertion that digital tools “collapse sight,
sound, and motion” which then “accelerates experimentation” in
● Amy’s class - a class on teaching writing for English Teaching majors seeking
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
● 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: http://multigenreinquiryprojects.weebly.com
● We got informed consent to collect data from a total of 33 participants
● We analyzed Beginning of Semester Questionnaire, MDIPs, End of
● Choice and inquiry lead to expansive views of writing
● Support throughout the project was essential
● Affective experiences illustrate academic, personal, and pedagogical
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 things.”
● 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
Questions? And Contact Info
● Amy Piotrowski
○ Email: email@example.com
○ Twitter: @piotrowskiamy
● Marla Robertson
○ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
● Jennifer Smith
○ Email: email@example.com