Academic literacy and the decontextualised learner
The literacy practices that are valued in the university emerge from specific disciplinary histories yet students are often expected to master these as if they were common sense and natural. This article argues that the autonomous model of literacy, which sees language use as the application of a set of neutral skills, continues to dominate in South African universities. This model denies the extent to which taking on disciplinary literacy practices can be difficult and have implications for identity. It also allows disciplinary norms to remain largely opaque and beyond critique. Furthermore, the autonomous model of literacy is often coupled with a discourse of the ‘decontextualised learner’ who is divorced from her social content, with higher education success seen to be resting largely upon attributes inherent in, or lacking from, the individual. Sadly, alternative critical social understandings have not been widely taken up despite their being well researched. Indeed, such understandings have often been misappropriated in ways that draw on critical social terminology to offer autonomous, decontextualised remedial student interventions. We argue that these issues are implicated in students’ accusations that universities are alienating spaces.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (SeeThe Effect of Open Access).
Authors who publish in this journal agree to these terms.