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Towards a responsible agenda for academic literacy development : considerations that will benefit students and society

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The transition from secondary to higher education (HE) requires a change of cultural mindset (cf. Darlaston-Jones et al., 2003; Leki, 2006). It is widely accepted that the academic performance and motivation of first year students to stay in HE depend, among others, on how well they integrate into the university environment (Brinkworth et al., 2009). Academic integration or acculturation takes different forms. The premise of this article is that students have to learn to engage with academic discourse, i.e., they must acquire the community's communicative currency, defined as different kinds of language used to reflect the community's current norms, practices, values and expectations (cf., among others, Duff, 2010; Gee, 1998, 2000; Hyland, 2009). As reflective and responsible practitioners we therefore need to outline a critical agenda for academic acculturation by reviewing the debate on the nature of literacy and, particularly, by discussing similarities and differences in epistemology and approaches to literacy. Such an agenda will have to recognise insights gained from, in particular, the New Literacy Studies (Street, 1998, 2004) and the Academic Literacies movement (Lea & Street, 1998; Lillis & Scott, 2007), but it will also become enriched by a linguistic perspective (Biber, 2006; Blanton, 1994; Bachman & Palmer, 1996; Halliday, 1978, 1985, 1993, 1996, 2002; Hyland, 2009). In developing a template for the agenda we accordingly acknowledge the theoretical defensibility and the feasibility of different approaches to academic acculturation.

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