Emergent Bilingual Students and Digital Multimodal Composition: A Systematic Review of Research in Secondary Classrooms

Blaine E. Smith, Mark B. Pacheco, Mariia Khorosheva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


With increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in today’s classrooms, a growing body of research continues to explore the varied ways in which digital tools and multiple modalities can tap into emergent bilingual students’ academic and linguistic strengths. To understand the empirical landscape of this growing research, the authors systematically reviewed the literature on emergent bilinguals and digital multimodal composition in secondary classrooms. Through an inductive approach, the authors analyzed 70 studies to understand key findings and characteristics of the extant research. Five main themes of findings emerged across the research. First, a majority of studies illustrated how digital multimodal composing supports emergent bilingual students’ identity expression. With expanded opportunities to share ideas through multiple modes, students used their projects to bridge transnational identities, (re)present themselves, and communicate in empowering ways. Second, nearly half of the studies emphasized how the integration of digital multimodal projects can reshape classrooms by challenging language ideologies, transforming the classroom as a locus for social justice, and expanding temporal and spatial boundaries as students compose for multiple audiences. Third, many studies demonstrated how emergent bilinguals develop as designers and leverage the unique semiotic resources of multiple modes when composing. Fourth, approximately a third of the studies showed how multimodal composition offers emergent bilinguals opportunities to expand their existing linguistic repertoires. Finally, a quarter of the studies illustrated the potential of multiple modes to mediate learning during composing processes. The authors discuss the implications of these themes and critical new directions for future research on digital multimodal composing with emergent bilingual students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-52
Number of pages20
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • 3-Early adolescence
  • 4-Adolescence
  • Bilingual Education
  • Digital Literacies
  • Digital/media literacy
  • English Language Learners
  • Language learners
  • Multimodal Composition
  • New Literacies
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Synthesis
  • Semiotics
  • Socio-cultural
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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