Fernando D. Rubio-Alcalá. Universidad de Huelva, Spain

Javier Ávila-López. Universidad de Córdoba, Spain

Globalisation and the mobility of people create new learning needs that must be met, especially for vulnerable people, in this case, adult migrants, who are struggling to adapt in a new context where language can be an obstacle to finding a job or integrating in a new community.

In this panorama, multiliteracy comes to the fore because it is the main tool for a person to communicate in a multimodal environment. The New London Group (1996) expanded the concept of literacy to include multilingualism as an important element of the human communication repertoire. Out of our multilingual research background, we wondered if after 25 years of implementation of multiliteracy, multilingualism was integrated in the academic research on multiliteracy.

For this reason, we conducted a systematic review of studies from 1996 without geographic restriction. The aim of this post is to show the results and propose some suggestions for better scientific work. In particular, we wanted to know whether previous research had included multilingualism / plurilingualism in multiliteracy models for studies with adult migrants, what research methods were used in these studies and what the quality of the research methods was.

We followed the Prisma protocol (Moher et al, 2015) to select and screen the studies found in primary and complementary databases. All procedures and specific numbers were sent to the European Journal of Language Policy for publication (decision pending). In the end, we found only 13 publications (n= 416) that met all the eligibility criteria. After extracting the information, we found that almost half of the studies did not consider multilingualism / plurilingualism in the theoretical framework. This is worrying, as most of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual (Ávila-López & Espejo-Mohedano, 2021), and studies need to consider multiliteracy from a comprehensive approach.

Another highlight of our study was that all the studies selected for data extraction followed a qualitative research approach, with ethnographic or autoethnographic methods predominating. We wonder why quantitative methods have been neglected in the literature, considering the benefits they can have in educational contexts. The decision on the research approach lies essentially in the research question that the researcher asks, and this decision leads to different types of analyses that are sometimes are mutually exclusive.

The results also showed that almost half of the registers were rated as being of medium or low quality, suggesting that researchers need to be trained to develop a robust research methodology and conduct more valid research studies.

All in all, we have received indications that more work is needed in this area to produce reliable studies that can lead to social, political and educational policies. Multiliteracy and multilingualism among adult migrants represent a new perspective in education that needs to be studied scientifically in order to develop tailored policies and measures.


Ávila-López, J., & Espejo-Mohedano, R. (2021). Second language reading and self-efficacy in bilingual and musical instruction. A study of reading ability. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2021.2005530

Moher D., Shamseer L., Clarke M., Ghersi D., Liberati A., Petticrew M., Shekelle P., Stewart L.A. (2015). Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015 statement. Syst Rev. 2015;4(1):1. Https//doi: 10.1186/2046-4053-4-1

The New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60–93.