The Positioning Theory Diamond as Analytic Tool to Examine Multimodal Social Interaction in an Engineering Club

  • Mary B. McVee University at Buffalo, SUNY
  • Kate S. Haq University at Buffalo, SUNY
  • Nichole Barrett University at Buffalo, SUNY
  • Katarina N. Silvestri University at Buffalo, SUNY
  • Lynn E. Shanahan University at Buffalo, SUNY
Keywords: positioning theory, positioning diamond, enginering, Bamberg


This paper presents a conceptual and methodological adaptation of the Positioning Theory diamond as originally proposed by Slocum-Bradley (2009). The authors propose an updated graphic representation that foregrounds the diamond in moral fields within arrays of identities and relationships that are not bound by space and time. The positioning diamond is illustrated as an analytical, research tool by applying it to study the social interactions, including multimodal interactions, of children (ages 7-10 years) in an afterschool engineering club. The paper illustrates how the authors applied the Positioning Theory diamond jointly with Bamberg’s three-tiered positioning analysis and multimodal analysis to develop a clearer perspective on one particular learner. The authors argue that scholars of positioning theory should look to studies of multimodality to deepen their analysis of speech and other acts. Multimodal analysis and the Positioning Theory diamond can be used effectively to explore social interactions in addition to speech.

Author Biographies

Mary B. McVee, University at Buffalo, SUNY

MARY B. McVEE Mary McVee ( is Director of the Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction (CLaRI) and Professor of Literacy Education at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Her research interests include positioning theory, social and embodied learning, social semiotics, culture, narrative, and teacher reflection. Her recent books include: Video Pedagogy in Action: Critical Reflective Inquiry Using the Gradual Release of Responsibility and Exploring Diversity through Multimodality, Narrative, and Dialogue, both from Routledge.

Kate S. Haq, University at Buffalo, SUNY

KATE S. HAQ Kate Shands Haq ( has been a professional educator since 1985. She taught in urban and rural schools in Western NY, primarily as an elementary classroom teacher and literacy coach. Kate earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction and the Learning Sciences at University at Buffalo, SUNY in 2018. Mother of three sons, community activist, and parent leader, Kate’s research interests include the intersection of homeless adolescents, literacy, and civic engagement as well as teachers’ work, policy, and identity. Kate is Director of Education (K-12) and co-owner of Chartered Professors, LLC, a continuous education and educational tourism business.

Nichole Barrett, University at Buffalo, SUNY

NICHOLE BARRETT Nichole Barrett ( is an adjunct professor specializing in Secondary English Education and digital video composition. She recently earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction, and the Science of Learning from the University at Buffalo, SUNY. Her most recent research explores the intersection between digital video composition, identity, and student voice, specifically among rural students. Her goals as a researcher and teacher include negotiating definitions of what it means to read and write in the 21st century and understanding how educators might leverage multimodal literacy practices a part of meaning making in their classrooms.

Katarina N. Silvestri, University at Buffalo, SUNY

KATARINA N. SILVESTRI Katarina Silvestri ( is an assistant professor of literacy at SUNY Cortland. She teaches courses in literacy leadership and theoretical foundations of literacy. Her current research agenda focuses on how multimodal, digital, and artifactual literacies support student-centered inquiry learning in the elementary grades, and how this intersects with disciplinary literacies in the STEAM domains. Her collaborative work can be found in Theory into Practice, Elementary School Journal, Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, and Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy as well as a chapter on Positioning Theory recently published in the seventh edition of Theoretical Models and Processes of Literacy.

Lynn E. Shanahan, University at Buffalo, SUNY

LYNN E. SHANAHAN Lynn E. Shanahan ( is an Associate Professor of Literacy Education in the Department of Learning and Instruction at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She works with in-service teachers on the development of strategic readers and writers with both print-based and digital texts drawing from social semiotics multimodality and embodied theoretical perspectives. Her research focuses on video reflection, multimodal composing, and explicit strategy instruction. Her most recent research examines the disciplinary literacy necessary when elementary aged students are learning the engineering design process.