n South African Journal of Higher Education - : discontinuities as experienced by first-year education students in their encounters with assessment

Volume 27, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In this article, the authors examine students' perceptions of the written assessment tasks in a Bachelor of Education (BEd) first-year course. The authors examine the perceptions of 18 students on assessment, and make explicit their understanding of the textual forms appropriate for academic writing. The analysis presented in the article draws on data gathered from three focus-group discussions with 18 first-year students about their experiences of assessment. It shows that behind what appears as a lack of understanding of 'basics', such as referencing rules, lies a misrecognition of the appropriate for academic writing, in short, of academic criteria. The authors use the notion of to describe the difficulty students experience regarding academic writing in comparison to their experiences of school writing. The analysis demonstrates three different discontinuities. Firstly, all the students, but particularly the average and the low-achieving students, experience the requirement to position themselves in relation to knowledge authorities as constraining. Secondly, academic writing foregrounds focus, elaboration and justification, which are criteria that only the high-achieving students in the group understand to be necessary in order to 'know what something is'. Thirdly, in view of their misrecognition of academic criteria (by focusing on content alone rather than on content and form), the average and the low-achieving students struggle to judge their lecturers' feedback on their writing. Conceptually, the discontinuities reflect the gap between the form of writing the students think they need to follow and the textual forms they are expected to produce.

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