Some challenges of collaboration between academic literacies specialists and subject specialists: framing the difference

  • Ydalene Coetsee Stellenbosch University
Keywords: academic literacies, chemistry, collaboration, deficit model, measuring impact


Collaboration between academic literacies (AcLits) specialists and subject specialists is still a significant issue in student support because AcLits practitioners now need to negotiate the advantages of both stand-alone and embedded courses. This paper focuses on some challenges of one such a collaboration between the provider of AcLits courses (the Language Centre) and the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science at an institution of higher education. The theory of framing (as in Scheufele, 2013) is used to explain some of the frustration experienced during this collaboration. The study also draws on New Literacies Studies in suggesting that student autonomy in constructing knowledge is negated when focus is placed on academic skills that students lack instead of the contribution students can make towards their own learning. Where previous AcLits collaborations have sometimes used the deficit model (Smit, 2012) to measure the impact of interventions, this study attempts to show that the collaboration itself aids deep learning. However, some challenges have to be overcome, of which an important one is the measurement of impact when the deficit model is not used. Whereas ATLAS.ti has often been used to analyse data sets, this investigation opts for open coding to explicate the frames relevant to this kind of collaboration. Analysis of the findings shows that students perceived this collaboration as a valuable learning experience despite all the challenges experienced. The paper concludes by suggesting that identification, explication and management of the challenges of collaboration thus proved well worth the effort.

Author Biography

Ydalene Coetsee, Stellenbosch University
Lecturer Language Centre