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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


OLIVIER, Louise. The effect of a compulsory academic literacy module on the academic writing skills of Afrikaans mother-tongue first-year nursing students. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2019, vol.59, n.1, pp.67-86. ISSN 2224-7912.

Worldwide and in South Africa it seems that various perceptions exist of first-year university students who are not academically literate and struggle to produce acceptable forms of academic writing (Boughey 2000:282). Standardised testing in higher education appears to support these perceptions that students' academic literacy is not on par. Countless sources in the realm of academic literature also support the perceptions that students, and specifically first-year students, have difficulties in writing due to a number of variables. Many universities have therefore begun to realise their responsibilities in supporting students with academic literacy modules to address their general academic literacy and writing needs. The purpose and nature of these modules often vary due to the different requirements and expectations of students, subject groups, faculties and universities. Even though being academically literate entails more than just proficiency with respect to academic writing, the focus in this study was on writing because writing is considered by many universities as a high-stakes activity as it remains one of the main forms of assessment, and if students struggle with writing, the likelihood of not being able to cope with their studies is imminent. Another reason why the focus in this study was on writing is because one of the issues that lecturers complain about most, is that undergraduate students cannot write. Many lecturers assume that students have the necessary basic language skills and knowledge of academic conventions required for tertiary studies, believe that students can cope with any literacy demands, and expect them to produce academically correct written assignments. When students enter university, they are expected to adopt language appropriate for university level, and many students struggle to immerse themselves in the academic community. It is quite difficult for students to work out what is expected of them, and subject lecturers also do not always explicitly provide students with ground rules for academic writing in their subject areas and believe that students should work out what is required by themselves. The need for academic writing interventions is therefore apparent. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect an academic writing intervention (as part of PhD research) conducted for this study had on the students from the case study. The students from the subject group Nursing in a Faculty of Health Sciences served as a convenience sample because of their accessibility to the researcher. During the time the research was conducted, the nursing students were the only homogeneous group and were therefore chosen to be part of the case study for this thesis. One of the reasons why Afrikaans mother-tongue nursing students were identified to be studied as a case study in this thesis was that it is assumed, as stated in literature (Weigle 2002:4), that there is a relationship between academic success and writing ability in terms of first-language contexts. In order to be successful in their careers and as university students, nursing students need to be proficient writers. An answer to a fundamental question, "why can't students write?", frequently asked by nursing staff who lecture nursing students and by professional nurses in practice, was also investigated in this study. The main issue addressed in this study was therefore to determine how effective the writing component of a compulsory academic literacy module (an intervention focussing among others on writing development) at a South African university is in achieving its aims and objectives, and whether it contributes to the overall academic writing proficiency of first-year nursing students, as a case in point. This module evaluation was situated within the context of Applied Linguistics, because one of the main functions of Applied Linguistics is to design and suggest solutions to language problems. A case study research design was used to carry out the evaluation of the module. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used to collect data for analyses. Firstly, online questionnaires were sent to nursing lecturers in order to do a needs analysis regarding the academic writing of nursing students. According to the lecturers, nursing students especially struggle with argumentation skills, and most of the lecturers felt that the students needed help with their academic writing. Secondly, a rubric was used to assess the students' academic essay writing. Finally, in focus group interviews, the nursing students gave their opinions on whether the module had an effect on their academic writing. The empirical results indicated that the module had a positive effect on the students' academic writing. However, it is clear that the students' writing was not perfect after only one module. Further interventions and research are necessary to support students with their academic writing. This will ensure that they find their own way in the academic community and are able to complete their studies successfully.

Palavras-chave : acculturation; academic literacy; academic writing; argumentation; evaluation; applied linguistics; intervention; nursing students; case study.

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