Successful first-year learning: A social cognitive view of academic literacy
The research data used in this article are drawn from a study conducted in a business faculty at a Historically Black South African University during 2009 and 2010. A comparison was made in the study between two groups of first-year students: a group that had passed all their modules and a group that had failed some of their modules at the end of their first year of study. The aim was to investigate factors that had an impact on the successful completion of the first year of study by problematising the
perception that those students from disadvantaged backgrounds or under-resourced schools are necessarily disadvantaged and destined to fail. In this article the focus is on the successful group of students and their mastery of academic discourse situated in the complexity of social and academic interaction. The findings indicate that the inter-relatedness of personal, academic, social and institutional factors mirror the inter-related way in which the students had experienced them. These findings further
underline the fact that successful learning is a complex and multi-layered process that is ongoing and that needs to be monitored, sustained and evaluated throughout students’ study careers. The students’ personal perspectives on academic study provided not only evidence that the development of academic literacy is socially situated and constructed but also showed how successful students manage their academic learning
to mitigate under-preparedness and adverse personal circumstances.
Key words: Students, successful learning, academic literacy, interrelated, socially situated.