Models of Hierarchical Complexity and Cognitive Development: Assessing the Multiliteracy Pedagogy

By Daniel DoBell.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Jean Piaget described the construction of new kinds of knowledge as building on generalizations based on established knowledge and insight. Piaget’s theory describes a process of increasing hierarchical complexity and has been studied and developed by a multitude of scholars and researchers. The notion of developing knowledge through a process of hierarchical complexity is further complicated by the increasingly complex world in which we live. In the age of the new media, the internet and multifarious culture new theories of pedagogy have emerged that seek to account for the increasingly complex world in which we live. One such theory is the theory of multiliteracies put forth by the New London Group in 1996. This theory sought to broaden the scope of literacy teaching “to include negotiating a multiplicity of discourses” (p. 2).
In this paper I examine how the pedagogy of multiliteracy as described by the New London Group can enhance student development through stages of hierarchical complexity. I will begin by looking at how hierarchical complexity has been represented through domain-specific and domain-general theories of intellectual development providing specific examples from each category. I then provide a list of the commonalities between the theories of hierarchical complexity. Next, I provide an overview of the pedagogy of multiliteracy looking specifically at the elements of design and the critical aspects of a multiliteracy pedagogy. This is followed by a look at the correlations between the multiliteracy pedagogy and theories of hierarchical complexity examining how multiliteracy methodologies can enhance the development of hierarchical complexity in students. Finally, the implications for practitioners are discussed by looking at theories of hierarchical complexity as a way for practitioners to assess multiliteracy-based methodologies.

Keywords: Hierarchical Complexity, Multiliteracy, Pedagogy, Domain-General, Domain-Specific, William Perry, Hierarchical Complexity Scoring System, Piaget

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp.135-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 563.720KB).

Daniel DoBell

Associate Director, University of Illinois Research Park and Incubation Programs, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, USA

Daniel DoBell is a CPA/MBA currently working on his PhD in Higher Education Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois. He currently serves as the Assistant Manager of the Research Park and Incubation Facilities at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.


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