Enhancing English academic literacy programmes for first year university students
Mathobela, Moodiela Victor
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This study aims at enhancing English academic literacy programmes for first year university students at the Qwaqwa Campus of the UFS. In order to achieve this, the following specific objectives were formulated to direct the study: 1. To identify challenges justifying the need to enhance EALPs for first year university students, 2. To identify and discuss the components and aspects necessary for such enhancement to occur, 3. To determine the conditions under which such enhancement can be successfully achieved, 4. To anticipate plausible threats that may hinder the enhancement operationalization and the strategies that could be put in place to circumvent them, 5. To identify monitoring strategies as well as indicators of successful enhancement, and 6. To propose strategies for enhancing EALPs for first year university students. Critical Emancipatory Research (CER) as the theoretical framework was chosen to couch this study towards the operationalisation of the above mentioned objectives. CER's agenda of equity, social justice, freedom, peace and hope made it suitable for the enhancement of EALPs for first year university students that would include facilitators and students. These stakeholders are included in this study on the basis that their direct participation would likely enhance and promote their sense of ownership, legitimacy and also democratise and legitimise the process of enhancing EALPs for first year university students. Guided by CER as the lens anchoring th is study, I reviewed the literature on EALPs for first year university students who learn through English as a second, third, fourth or foreign language in South Africa, Australia, Canada, UK and the USA because these countries represent the best practices with regard to academic literacy teaching at first year university level given their socio-economic contexts which are more or less similar to the kind of students we teach at this campus of the UFS. Literature revealed a number of challenges and mechanisms which were put in place to solve them. Informed by theory and guided by the objectives of the study, I also looked at the components and aspects necessary for enhancement of EALPs, the conditions that made these solutions to be operational, as well as the threats that scampered their effectiveness in some instances and strategies put in place to circumvent them. The intent was to finally identify monitoring strategies and indicators of successful enhancement so that strategies can be proposed and replicated in our context. To complement the conceptualisation above, we generated empirical data through Participatory Action Research (PAR) as a research methodology and design which enabled the study to operationalise CER in action and to problematize issues of unequal power relations between the facilitators and the students. These power disparities seemed to be the most important factors that caused problems in the implementation of EALPs on the said campus. Through this the PAR approach, the voices of the marginalised and excluded stakeholders who were directly affected by the implementation of EALPs were given the opportunity to be expressed and heard. The empirical data confirmed that there were challenges in the implementation of EALPs at the Qwaqwa Campus as revealed in the literature elsewhere. These challenges included the exclusion of facilitators as EAL practitioners, as well as other beneficiaries in the implementation of these EALPs like students. There were also problems in formulating a commonly acceptable vision, hence no coordinated plan in implementation as well as lack of proper monitoring procedures to name a few. In order to overcome these challenges, seven components and aspects necessary for enhancing EALPs for first year university students emerged to counteract the challenges. Thereafter, eight conditions conducive for EALPs enhancement to occur were identified. Threats to enhancement and strategies to circumvent them were also highlighted. Based on the above, monitoring strategies and indicators of successful enhancement of EALPs were also explored and examined. The study concludes by proposing strategies to effectively enhance EALPs for first year university students using data from the literature and from the empirical data emanating from this study.
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