Using an academic literacy course in a first year educational programme to investigate àt risk' Technikon Natal students perceptions of learning, learning styles and use of learning strategies in relation to their achievement levels.
This research report is about a study into formerly Technikon Natal (now DIT) 'at risk' students' perceptions of learning (deep or surface), learning styles and use of self-regulating learning strategies (level of metacognitive knowledge). The aim of the study is to get a deeper understanding of how this category of student approaches learning. The literature study explored issues on the interdependent relationship between language and learning, how socialisation shapes language and learning, perceptions of learning, learning styles and metacognition. However these issues and interrelationships are shown to be much more complex when learners are 'at risk', that is, come from disadvantaged backgrounds and learn using English as an additional language. The research paradigm chosen is interpretive because the researcher has a practical interest and seeks contextualised understanding of 'at risk' students' subjective experiences of learning. The researcher's central disposition is to make a judgment on 'at risk' students' perceptions of learning, their learning styles and self-regulating learning strategies (metacognitive behaviour) elicited from their responses in questionnaires. Although there are limitations with collecting and analyzing data mainly using questionnaires, key findings in the study show that high achieving (HA) first year of study 'at risk' students seem more likely to be associated with a) emerging deep perceptions of learning b) emerging less active and more reflective learning styles and c) a greater ability to communicate knowledge and express their understanding using English as an additional language. A key recommendation is to abandon a separate and special Academic Literacy course for 'at risk' students in the DIT and rather to integrate academic literacy development into the mainstream.