Acquiring academic literacy: A case of first-year extended degree programme students

van Schalkwyk S. ; Bitzer E. ; van der Walt C. (2009)


The way in which academic literacy is acquired is described in the work of many researchers, some of whom speak of students in higher education serving an apprenticeship during which they become acculturated into the discourse of the discipline. But often weaker firstyear students will miss the discipline-specific codes that characterise the discourse, making the process of acquisition more difficult. In this article we report on the findings of an in-depth study that explored the experiences of a specific group of under-prepared first-year students on an extended degree programme in order to determine how they sought to acquire academic literacy - this particularly in view of their having been exposed to a dedicated academic literacy module as part of the programme offering. What emerged was an understanding of students, particularly less prepared students, having to negotiate a series of boundaries in order to assume membership of the larger academic community, on the one hand, as well as the different disciplines, each with its own conventions and discourse, on the other. In this context, the potential of an aligned and integrated academic literacy module to enable such negotiation would appear to have relevance. © NISC Pty Ltd.

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