Negotiating learning and identity: a longitudinal perspective on student transitions to and within university
Dr Bongi Bangeni, Language Development Group, Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town
Assoc. Prof Rochelle Kapp, School of Education, University of Cape Town
Bongi Bangeni is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town, South Africa. She has published in the areas of writing and identity, the development of discipline-specific literacies, and students’ transitions from undergraduate to postgraduate spaces of engagement.
Rochelle Kapp is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She has extensive teaching and development experience in the fields of language and literacy education and has led a number of academic development projects. She has published in the areas of language and literacy practices, student experience, and the politics of English.
Our presentation draws on findings from two collaborative qualitative longitudinal studies on student transitions conducted within the Academic Development Programme at the University of Cape Town between 2002 and 2012. These studies tracked the language, literacy and identity shifts of over 100 students from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds over the course of their undergraduate years. The data illustrate the ways in which student learning is often impeded by limitations of choice within degree structures. Also shown is how high-school discourses and decisions made at high school level continue to impact on students’ pathways on entry, at senior levels and even after the successful completion of the first degree. Equally significant is the agency demonstrated by the students in the face of this constraint. However, the data show how students are able to be agentic at certain times, in certain spaces but not in others. Precipitous moves from steady progress to failure (and vice versa) from one year to the next are a reality. Thus, the findings critique the exclusive focus on individual attributes divorced from context in research on student transitions. The qualitative longitudinal approach foregrounds the centrality of context and the student perspective, enabling us to situate learning and identity in time and space. It problematizes the notion that intense support and reduced load in the first year prepares students adequately for progression to their senior years. While debates about what constitutes inclusive curricula in our current socio-political climate in HE have tended to focus on authorship and what is taught, we argue that a focus on teaching and learning practices is key in contributing to discussions around models of support and assessment within ECP and mainstream teaching.
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