Whole of institution academic language and learning practice: Systemic implications

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 2018, 12 (1), pp. 48 - 63
Issue Date:
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According to Biggs (1993) higher education can be understood as a system of nested sub-systems and good pedagogical practices need to be capable of working throughout this system. As academic language and learning has changed from focusing on specific (groups of) students to whole of institution approaches (Harper, 2013), academic language and learning practices now have to occur throughout the systems of higher education. In undertaking these practices, academic language and learning practitioners have had to adapt to specific disciplines, different learning and teaching environments as well as a range of professional and institutional roles. In this paper, we map the practices of an academic language and learning unit throughout the sub-systems of a large metropolitan university, comparing and contrasting areas where academic language and learning practices are successful with areas where there are gaps and deficiencies. Using actor and agency theory, we discuss factors and parameters that contribute to the success of academic language and learning practices (Fenton-Smith & Gurney, 2016) and also how these differ depending on the location of the practice within the system. We also identify and discuss the multiplicity of identities academic language and learning practitioners have to adopt (Webb, 2001) and transition between in order to function successfully throughout the system. Finally, we draw conclusions in relation to the extent to which changes in academic language and learning practices have been a result of, or have driven, systemic change, and conversely, whether they have simply been absorbed by the system, reverting to the status quo (Biggs, 1993).
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