Next Seminar – 6 March 2019

Our next seminar will take place on 6 March and will explore the topic: Student academic writing and support in the ECP environment. Four academics from the neighbouring institutions will share how they approach student writing development in their context. This interactive session will ask seminar participants to share their practice and contribute to unpacking the topical issues of what counts as appropriate student writing development in our different university contexts.

Ac Lit Forum_invite_march2019

New website and location

Welcome to the new website of the Western Cape Inter-institutional Academic Literacies Forum. This will now be the site of our virtual repository and the melting pot for all the activities under the banner of this forum. May it be a welcoming and productive point of connection for all participants of this forum.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


15 February 2017, Sally Baker and Jackie Tuck

Risky regimes: the assessment of student writing in institutional contexts

Dr Sally Baker (University of Newcastle, Australia)- profile

Dr Jackie Tuck (The Open University, UK) – profile

SBaker and JTuck_presentation_Feb2017


Sally Baker and Jackie Tuck

Although empirical attention to the complex web of issues that constitute ‘students’ literacies in higher education’ has grown, little has changed in terms of institutional approaches to viewing, framing and assessing writing. Given that writing is the dominant form for assessing learning in most disciplines, there remains an urgent imperative to examine what issues are at play when it comes to assessing students’ reading and writing for university study. The academic literacies conceptual approach (Lea & Street, 1998; Lillis, 2008) works from a view of literacy as social practice, and research that adopts this theoretical and methodological frame is able to focus a critical gaze on the sociocultural contexts of production, process and practice. 

This co-presentation will draw from two separate, but related, research projects informed by the academic literacies frame to discuss the assessment of students’ writing  from contrasting perspectives: the first presentation will examine how students’ adapted to and understood assessment in the context of their transitions into university literacies, while the second will explore assessment from the standpoint of the lecturer. From examining the intersections and dissonance between the two perspectives, this presentation will offer a holistic view of how assessment impacts the ‘work’ of students and lecturers in the academy.



10 August 2016 – Arona Dison, UWC

 Preview Room, Fundani, 2nd Floor Library Building, CPUT Bellville Campus, 12:30 – 2pm

Developing students’ academic and professional literacies through engagement with text and practice: Perceptions of lecturers in a health sciences faculty

Arona Dison, UWC


Participants at Arona's presentation on 10 August
Participants at Arona’s presentation on 10 August

The concept of ‘academic literacies’ is rarely used in health education, which tends to be oriented towards the ‘competencies’ needed by health professionals. While the term ‘academic literacy’ is used in my context at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), it is often used by lecturers to describe a generic form of literacy which is expected to be taught in an English for Academic Purposes course in first year and then applied to disciplinary courses. At the same time many lecturers are concerned about students’ writing, their ability to integrate material and to relate theory and practice.

In this paper, I briefly explore a line of argument that the concept of literacies can provide a valuable lens for understanding and facilitating students’ engagement with academic practices in the health sciences. Furthermore, as well as developing academic literacies, students need to begin to develop the literacies needed for practice as health professionals. Secondly, I report on interviews with lecturers on the academic and professional literacies needed by students in the various health professional programmes in the faculty concerned as well as practices that lecturers described which aimed to develop these literacies. Thirdly, I share experiences from an ongoing participatory case study of integrating academic literacies into the Occupational Therapy curriculum.

The component of research that was conducted across the professional programmes was done through semi-structured interviews with one lecturer from 5 of the 8 undergraduate professional programmes offered in the Faculty.  These are Nursing, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy (OT), Social Work and Dietetics. Lecturers were selected on the basis of their interest in learning and academic literacy development of students. They were asked which academic and professional literacies were needed by students in their programmes and how they thought they should be developed. I have analysed the data through identifying which literacies were valued, and clustering them into 6 broad dimensions of literacy that were valued across the different disciplines. In this paper, I also flesh out how particular literacies manifest themselves within the genres and practices of the various professional programmes, drawing on excerpts from the data.

The lecturers who were interviewed thought that it was the responsibility of the departments to develop certain literacies explicitly in their curricula or at least to reinforce the work done in the English for Academic Purposes course. However, from my interactions with lecturers in the faculty, I am aware that these views are in the minority. This research has also highlighted some of the difficulties associated with engaging content lecturers to consider literacies as part of their curriculum and pedagogic practices. I would like to use the findings of this research to raise awareness amongst lecturers in departments about which literacies are seen as most important in their professional programmes. Also important would be to stress the need to integrate the development of these into the curriculum and sequence and scaffold students’ development of these literacies. In the forum I would like to stimulate discussion about the contribution of this project to possible further research and practice, as well as feedback on engagement with theory.

Aronaarona Dison is employed as a Teaching and Learning specialist in the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences at the University of the Western Cape. She did her doctoral study on research capacity development of individuals at applied research centres. Her current research interests are academic and professional literacies and professional identity formation of students.