Bolted on or SurgicallyImplanted: the Teaching ofAcademic Literacy
Academic Skills Tutor: Deliver workshops (essay writing, dissertation writing, critical thinking, etc.) Offer one-to-one and group tutorials Tailor make sessions at the request of lecturers Write materials for website and publish learning guides
Thesis: Academic literacy is not a set of generic skills that can or should be taught in isolation. These skills should be taught within disciplines because they are discipline specific. It follows that libraries or student writing centres or student study centres should not be the primary sites of teaching such skills.
The purpose of a university: Primary concern should be with the dissemination of knowledge. This knowledge pertains to a discipline or area of study. What should be taught is the discourse and epistemology of a discipline.
Student support: All students need support to succeed at university, not just students deemed „at risk‟. The leap from whatever came before ( A Levels, a less traditional route) to university will be great. Few, if any, students are really prepared.
Assumptions of the bolted-onapproach: A selected deficit model – some students lack the necessary skills to succeed. Academic skills are a set of atomised skills that can be taught in themselves. Once taught and learned they can be transferred to any discipline and provide the foundation for a student to
Faults of the bolted-on approach: Separates method from content. Encourages surface learning as opposed to deep learning. At its worst, it can appear to offer a set of tricks or strategies to get a student through. Rarely answers the question „why‟ and tends to deal with „how‟.
Let‟s consider referencing: Tends to be taught as an atomised, mechanical skill which is transferable to any discipline. Focus largely on the „how‟ and not the „why‟ and not the complexities inherent in any system of referencing.
Referencing better taught withina discipline: Why reference? What constitutes a known fact? What constitutes a lesser know fact? What constitutes an opinion as opposed to a fact? How is an argument made/woven combining secondary sources and your own opinion?
Let‟s take an essay topic: Discuss the following statement by Twigg (1998, p. 227): “The boundary between themedical and the social is a shiftingone, constructed in complex waysthat reflect both institutional and ideological factors.”
Student comment: “ The thing I‟m finding most difficult in my first term here is moving from subject to subject and knowing how you‟re meant to write in each one. I‟m really aware of writing for a particular tutor as well as for a particular subject. Everybody seems to want something different.
Paradigm shift: Academic literacy is best taught within disciplines and not as a set of discreet skills separate from a discipline. Embedded within disciplines and taught to all students such skills would be better received by students and be seen as relevant. Paradigm shift required on behalf of administrators, course and programme leaders.
Useful reading: Lea, M., and Street, B. (1998) Student Writing in Higher Education. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2) pp.157-172. Northedge, A. (2003) Enabling Participation in Academic Discourse. Teaching in Higher Education, 8(2) pp.169-180. Wingate, U. (2006) Doing away with „study skills‟. Teaching in Higher Education, 11(4) pp.457-469.