On making sense of science discourse : the role of the foundation programme in a South African University.
The BSc4 (Foundation) programme offered at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) caters for students from disadvantaged educational backgrounds, with lower matriculation points, offering them the opportunity to pursue studies in science. The students in the BSc4 (Foundation) programme are registered for foundation modules in science, viz. biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics as well as an academic literacy course. It is in the context of these foundation modules in science within the BSc4 (Foundation) programme that this study is undertaken. This study explores the discipline-specific literacies that the BSc4 (Foundation) students require in order to learn science and to acquire science discourse. The study uses case study as a research design, the interpretive research paradigm and the qualitative research approach to analyse data obtained from multiple research instruments. Research findings reveal that with the change in student profile, module changes within the BSc4 (Foundation) programme were implemented. In light of these, the study explores factors such as the ‘articulation gap’ between school and university; and disadvantaged educational experiences. The findings also suggest that students experience challenges with the use of the language of science and the use of discipline-specific literacies in science in the modules offered in the BSc4 (Foundation) programme. However, there exists the scope for stronger engagement between the academics who teach the foundation modules in science and the academic literacy specialists to assist students in the acquisition of the discipline-specific literacies required to learn science and for science discourse.