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Students’ languages and their associations

Our Directorate of Teaching and Learning has organised a series of seminars over the next few months, with invited speakers from a variety of institutions across the country. They’ll be presenting on a range of topics, including academic literacy, integrating technology into teaching, working with large classes, teaching practices, and educational theory. I’ll also be presenting a session on personal learning, which will be similar to the other talks I’ve give on the topic recently.

Today we had a presentation by Doctor Brenda Leibowitz, who spoke about the relationship between language and biography / identity and their impact on teaching and learning. Here are a few short notes I took during the session.

Language studies typically look at homogeneous groups, but few look at cross-institutional and cultural communities.

Language can be intimidating for students (“the words are so complicated”), which means that texts can take longer to read, result in more guessing and reduced coherence

“Too hard to find the words, so you just make simple sentences”

Students appreciated the focus groups where someone was paying attention to their difficulties (“This gathering is like rain in the desert”)

The ability to communicate effectively depends on genre. Context has implications for language

Attitude has implications for language, as does identity

Mastery of a second language is important, but is not the sole determinant of academic success

Role of language in teaching and learning:

  • Proficiency
  • Social – and isolation
  • Utility
  • Value (exposure)
  • Ideological associations

Language has an impact on social and organisational structure

Code switching

How can we introduce students to the genre of academic discourse?

Talking and writing students into the discipline”. How do you take your students with you to the conclusion, rather than leave them behind and create a gap that they cannot cross?

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.