Academic reading as social practice: implications for equity in higher education

Year: 2019

Author: Baker, Sally, Bangeni, Bongi, Burke, Rachel, Hunma, Aditi

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While the importance of academic language and literacies in students’ meaningful participation in higher education has been well-explored, there has been significant silence in the literature around what constitutes reading in higher education. Likewise, the sociocultural complexities of reader engagement with text in the disciplines, especially for traditionally under-represented student groups, have received limited scholarly attention despite the significant implications for the equity and widening participation agenda. This presentation will explore key findings from a scoping study of scholarly work that sought to map trends in existing research regarding reading in tertiary education. Based on Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) flexible six-stage blueprint for mapping under-explored areas of interest, our study was located at the intersection of three domains: academic literacies, reading studies, and widening participation/equity in higher education. This presentation will discuss key findings from our exploration of these three overlapping fields of inquiry, including competing definitions of academic reading, the depth of researcher engagement with issues of equity, identity, and widening participation, and the basis for scholarly recommendations regarding approaches to teaching and learning academic reading in higher education. Our analysis of the literature also points to a gap in case studies of students’ situated reading practices and critical engagements with the privileged and expected ways of reading within disciplines. We identify problematic silences in the literature regarding the role of reading in facilitating meaningful access to and participation in higher education, and argue that the equity agenda cannot redress existing marginalisation of traditionally underrepresented groups until there is a widespread and concerted attention to language.