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Foundation degree in education students' engagement with academic discourse

  • Charles, Carol Irene
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
OpenGrey Repository


This thesis investigates the processes by which students on a Foundation Degree in Education [FdEd] in a higher education institute in the U.K. engage with and make sense of academic discourse. Discourses encompass not only what can be said or written, but also ways of thinking, seeing, believing, knowing, and valuing which are influenced by factors such as age, gender, class, ethnicity and socio-cultural practices. The study draws on ethnographic approaches to educational research, employing participant observation and interviews, to show how primary classroom teaching assistants are using resources from their private and professional lives to make sense of the texts [anything that can be read for meaning] presented on the FdEd. The study has three components. The first component involves 170 hours of participant observation with two cohorts of students on the FdEd. This includes 100 hours with Cohort 4, the main focus of the study, following them from year 1 through to year 2 of the programme. This provided a good understanding of the programme and enabled the researcher, as a doctoral student participating in the programme alongside the teaching assistants, to build a relationship with the students, see how they engaged with academic discourse and texts, and develop a sense of how they related their professional and personal experiences to the programme. Building on this, the second component consists of interviews with students and analysis of their engagement with some key texts from the programme. Formal interviews were carried out with students from the two cohorts. Eight readings from the programme were selected to discuss with the students and explore in detail how they were responding to and making sense of academic texts. In the third part of the study an approach to teaching is developed and implemented that builds upon the relationship between resources such as life experiences outside the course and students' engagement with academic texts to foster more productive engagement with academic discourse. The earlier observations, discussions and interviews with students highlighted the importance of 'reading for pleasure' in broadening their horizons geographically, psychologically and linguistically, which emerged as an important influence on their engagement with academic discourse. For mature students who have experienced an 'interrupted education' incorporation of these texts provides a way of overcoming the initial view some students held of themselves as 'deficit learners'. This approach addresses the observed tendency of some students to see some research texts as criticising implicitly their own socio-cultural practices, for instance relating to parenting, and difficulties with academic language, including syntax, specialised terminology and 'hedging' techniques, by harnessing student resources as a pedagogic strategy. This third phase of the research provides an example of connective pedagogy and creates a context for exploration of the professional implications of the outcomes of the research. This arises from the unanticipated opportunity for the researcher to move from participant observer working alongside the students to tutor. The ethical and practical issues involved in this transition and in the conduct of this form of participatory research are explored in the thesis. / EThOS - Electronic Theses Online Service / GB / United Kingdom

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