Literacies: Skills and practices in developing writing identities

  • Verbra Frances Pfeiffer University of Stellenbosch
Keywords: literacy pedagogy, expressive writing, multilingualism, cognitive challenges, academic literacy, heterglossia


This study was prompted by the fact that students who use a second language (L2) for higher education studies are often faced with the dilemma of not being able to express themselves in writing. This study attempts to comprehend experiences by higher education multilingual students engaging in the practice of expressive writing. Mastering a language and being able to make sense of oneself in writing is a complex activity especially for L2 writers. In this article, I look at ways in which we may understand the writing process better when viewing students’ writing against the backdrop of multilingualism in South Africa, with the notion of a social (cognitive) process and its influence on their ability to write. The literature review highlights Bakhtin’s concept of a heteroglossic dialogic relationship referring to the tensions between the multiplicities of language varieties within a national language, which draws it towards a standard central version by the use of expressive writing. This qualitative case study design, guided by interpretive epistemology, was used to collect students’ views, perceptions and suggestions on their experiences in writing. The aim of this study was to identify the kinds of strategies that could assist L2 students with English language writing tasks. The findings suggest that multilingual students benefit from the use of expressive writing. When pondering the holistic view of these findings, this study endorses the use of expressive writing as a developmental tool in the process of becoming academically literate.


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Author Biography

Verbra Frances Pfeiffer, University of Stellenbosch
Curriculum Studies DepartmentPost doctorate fellow