Providing opportunities to learn:Towards an equitable academic literacies approach for international students at an Australian university

Year: 2018

Author: Creely, Edwin, Chowdhury, Raqib, Kostogriz, Alexander

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Australian universities have long emphasised the importance of the provision of equitable education as an essential part of the international education experience. An important condition for equitable education is clarity of understanding of institutional expectations, especially of academic literacies. Using James Gee’s principles for equity through the provision of opportunities to learn, this study investigates Chinese, Indonesian and Vietnamese graduate education students' and their lecturers’ understandings of and attitudes to English academic literacies. Sociocultural and linguistic dissonances between countries in the Asian region and Australia necessitate a systematic and scholarly investigation into how differences in perceptions and practices of English academic discourses can disadvantage some international graduate students. A mixed method approach was adopted for this study, which involved surveying 100 graduate students, interviewing six graduate students representing the three selected countries, and a focus group with lecturers and tutors involved in teaching this cohort of students. In addition, a discourse analysis of relevant policy and curriculum documents was undertaken to critically explore how institutional expectations are manifested, understood and enacted in the learning and teaching environment. Findings suggest that there is a prevalence of contradictory or inconsistent understandings of academic literacy, resulting in challenges for teaching and learning and for university support services and assessment systems. Recommendations for refining alignments between academic literacy expectations, practices and outputs are offered. In particular, the need to differentiate learning by lecturers and tutors of international graduate students from diverse backgrounds emerges as urgent in promoting equitable education. The results of the study helped design a model that opens new spaces for self-directed learning using English academic literacies.