Evaluating academic literacy teaching at a South African university: A case study of an academic literacy programme
The official demise of apartheid in 1994 meant that historically white universities became accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The poor English education received by these students at high school, however, made it difficult for them to read, write and think in English for academic purposes, an additional language to most of them.
20 years into democracy, this challenge still persists. South African universities have responded to this challenge by introducing academic English programmes to help the students bridge the English gap between high school and university. Most of these programmes require the funding provided by the Department of Higher Education and Training in the form of Teaching and Learning grants. Are the foundational and technical designs of these programmes focused on the teaching of academic literacy as it is conceptualized in the context of higher education in South Africa today? Are the teaching and learning methodologies employed in these programmes consistent with current trends in the teaching of English as a second language? Are these programmes managed and structured in a way that promotes the achievement of the very purpose for which they were formed? This paper presents a case study of an academic literacy programme offered at a South African university, whose aim was to generate answers to the questions raised above. The findings of the study reveal that the programme had shortcomings and that it needed to be redeveloped to ensure that it met students’ generic academic literacy needs.
Keywords: academic literacy, concep tual design, assessment practices, management, structure