Pedagogic practices in an academic writing module for undergraduate education students : a phenomenological case study.
Academic writing has been described both internationally and nationally as a major challenge the higher institution entrant students are faced with. In the South African context, many studies have indicated that the Black South African students who constitute the larger part of the student population in the (Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) who are affected the most; the reason being that they are second language users of English, the language of instruction. However, recent studies have revealed that academic writing problem is not only limited to the L2 users, but that the L1 users also have problem writing academically. Scholars the world over have found that students‟ inability to write academically has been the major contributor to their underperformances at the HEIs. Thus, academic writing, arguably, goes beyond a mere acquisition of writing skills, but the acquisition of academic discourse. The Academic Literacy for Undergraduate Students (ALUGS) module, formerly referred to as Academic Literacy in English (ALE), was introduced at the university under study to cater for this writing challenge. Surprisingly, students have been experiencing a high rate of failure even within the module itself- good intensions going wobbly! It is against this background that this study was conducted to explore the effectiveness of the pedagogy at use in the teaching of the ALUGS module. Hence, the purpose of the study was to explore how writing was being taught within the ALUGS module; why was it taught the way it was taught, and; what impact does the way writing was taught have on students‟ writing practices within the module. The study was located within an interpretive paradigm, and employed a qualitative approach in the analysis of the research data. Semi-structured interviews, observations and documentary evidences were the research instruments used in generating the research data. Theoretically, drawing from the social theories of learning, this study was framed by the New Literacy Studies (NLS), dwelling largely on Gee‟s discourse theory and Street‟s autonomous and ideological models of literacy. Findings from the study revealed that the approach being used focus more on the teaching of writing skills rather than the acquisition of academic discourses. It was also found that there was no training for tutors before they were engaged in the teaching of the module, and as a result, they ended up teaching different things in their tutorials. Findings further revealed that what students learned in the ALUGS module have little or no relevance to what they were taught in their various disciplines. Consequently, it was found that both students and lecturers are looking forward to having an academic writing module designed to be discipline-specific rather than a generic one. Thus, it was recommended that the academic writing module should be housed within each discipline to cater for the disciplinary writing needs of the students, and that the curriculum and the course materials should be redesigned.