How sufficient is academic literacy? Re-examining a short-course for 'disadvantaged' tertiary students

Year: 2006

Author: Henderson, Robyn, Hirst, Elizabeth

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Recent discussions about learning have problematised academic literacy and its place within an increasingly plural, multicultural, multilingual and textually multimodal society. The take up of academic language, once considered central to a 'schooled' and 'intelligent' person, is now, Gee (2004, p.94) argues, "at best a necessary, but not sufficient condition for success in society". In light of these comments, we re-examine a successful short-course in academic literacy that was conducted for a cohort of 'disadvantaged' students enrolled in the first year of an education degree (see Hirst, Henderson, Allan, Bode & Kocatepe, 2004). Based on a sociocultural approach to learning and a conceptualisation of tertiary literacy as a social practice, the short-course disrupted deficit views of individual students and helped students expand their literate repertoires. In our re-examination, we draw on Gee's (2003, 2004, 2005) discussions of learning principles in multimediated contexts, including video and computer games, and his preference for the notion of affinity spaces over communities of practice. We begin by reframing academic literacy, then consider whether such a course has the potential to work with the increasing diversity of tertiary students' learning and life experiences while preparing them for successful participation in tertiary education contexts.