Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Critical questioning in history is essential for Chilean secondary students studying hegemonic multimodal discourses in a discipline involving interpretation. Being able to question, however, presents significant challenges for learners, particularly those enrolled in socioeconomically disadvantaged schools. One of the main challenges involves cultivating the skill and proficiency in composing written content that relies on both primary and secondary sources. Although existing literature examines the role of questions in the development of historical thinking, pedagogies of multiliteracies in which students learn to pose questions after viewing texts comprising multiple semiotic modes have not been investigated. The present study examines the potential of a multimodal pedagogical approach to teaching critical literacy. This approach uses mainstream films to initiate 'pedagogic talk' during which students and their teacher negotiate the questioning of the films. These cinematographic discussions are facilitated by structured learning activities that oversee the learning practice of 'posing questions' within history classrooms, laying the groundwork for crafting these questions during the writing process.

The research focuses on students’ meaning-making practices while learning to pose questions across different semiotic modes. Specifically, the study is focused on the exploration of meaning transformations by exploring the deployment of discourse-semantic resources from one semiotic mode to another. The study employs Systemic Functional Theory, which provides analytical systems for tracking meaning-making transformations across multimodal texts. The data were collected through a literacy intervention in which I was the researcher and pedagogue, running remote classes in two Chilean schools from Australia due to the COVID- 19 Pandemic. The key findings on the tracking of how ideas are formed, developed and changed across semiotic modes reveal that students construct their questioning based on cohesive meaning-making resources, such as contrast, repetition and expectancy relations, introduced by the film and negotiated through pedagogic sequences in the classroom talk. In other words, this pertains to the diverse semantic connections that mould our consciousness. These findings have implications for education, in particular the development of critical questioning. Understanding semiotic mobility in literacy practices enables teachers to provide tools for students to analyse semantic variations across various forms of communication, facilitating the development of consciousness in processes of critical questioning.

FoR codes (2008)

130106 Secondary Education, 130202 Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development, 200403 Discourse and Pragmatics, 200401 Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.