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E801: Action 1.16: Reflecting on the writing process

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Action 1.16: Reflecting on the writing process

Lea, M. R. & Street, B. V. (1998) Student writing in higher education: an academic literacies approach. In Fletcher-Campbell, F., Soler, J. & Reid, G. (2009) Approaching Difficulties in Literacy Development: Assessment, Pedagogy and Programmes. London, Sage.

What are the arguments for a practices approach to literacy that takes account of the cultural and contextual component of writing and reading processes?

Allows analysis of academic literacy and differing expectations without value judgements

How has this approach drawn from 'academic literacy' and 'new literacy' studies?

It is placed in a social setting of the particular academic field. It relies on the social customs and practices of the academic peer group and, in more applied courses, of the employment contexts.

Study skills - isolated, fix problems and transfer to context - behavioural psychology approach

Academic socialisation approach - induct student into new culture - social psychology, anthropology, constructivist
-criticised as academy is not homogeneous

Academic literacies - closest to new literacy studies - epistemological approach; institution is site of power. Switching practices, social meaning and identity - threatening to student

To what extent do you think the RLF is an example of how this approach might be implemented in specific departments in universities and other HE settings?

Professional writers are likely to be outside the discipline and so an academic mentor is required to advise them on practices in the university, department and discipline (English Subject Centre, 2003, from study guide). Surely it would be better to have a good academic writer from within the university department to supervise this? I can understand that it may work well in English but I cannot see it working well in other subjects.

The link in the study file is wrong. The English Subject Centre is located at...


In what ways do you think the themes and approaches related to academic literacy and new literacies discussed by Lea and Street could be relevant for those working with other adult students and school pupils who are not enrolled in HE institutions?

I do some work at Keele University which prides itself on a broad base to their degrees. This means that students may be studying with up to six different departments in their first year. Each of these departments will have different guidelines for writing and different referencing systems. This paper threw some light on the difficulties experienced by students.

  • Linguistic switching / code switching - in different disciplines, modules and interdisciplinary studies
  • Tutors find it difficult to prepare handouts on 'good writing' for particular contexts
  • Academics can explain form but not what constitutes the elements such as 'critically analyse' or 'evaluate'. These terms describe the results of years of practice in a particular field and cannot be defined. This makes study skills irrelevant as the technique required is part of academic practice not an isolated skill.
  • Writing skills are not transferable across departments and sometimes not between tutors in the same department.

I consider that several things could be worth looking at in other areas of education. One of these concerns looking at study skills as isolated practices. If students in higher education need to be able to study in context to learn these skills, what are we doing with our basic skills learners when we withdraw them from context with synthetic phonics or isolated skills practices?

If tutors cannot describe 'good writing' in a particular context, why do we describe it authoritatively to learners at GCSE and A-level? Shouldn't we be emphasising that we need to suit our writing to context?





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