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ࡱ> #` bjbj\.\. 4>D>D(8"8"8"8p"4"T=:##"&#&#&#$$$9999999$;hC>9/-$$/-/-9&#&#9555/-&#&#95/-955:^8\9&#" `X@8"/1$9 9 :0=:.9.3?33?\93?\9`$&5(o*$$$99Q5X$$$=:/-/-/-/-8"8" EPISTEMOLOGICAL ACCESS TO THE UNIVERSITY: AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE C Boughey Rhodes University ABSTRACT The need to increase the number of African students studying at tertiary level, particularly in science, technology and commerce, has led to the establishment of foundation programmes at many institutions. In spite of attempts to provide formal access in this way, the issue of what constitutes epistemological access still remains under-researched in South Africa. This paper uses an ethnographic study of students in a first year class at a historically black South African university in order to engage with the issue of epistemological access to the university in general and, more particularly, with what constitutes access in terms of language development. INTRODUCTION Ten years after the first democratic election, access to higher education remains problematic for the majority of South Africans. Although the number of African students in the entire higher education system has grown, with Cloete & Bunting (2000), for example, quoting an increase in the gross participation rate from 9% in 1993 to 13% in 2000, they continue to be clustered in areas with low earning potential (such as the humanities and education) and are often over represented in the slow throughput and high attrition rates which plague the system. In recent years, redress funding for academic development made available by the Department of Education along with workshops funded by the Tertiary Education Linkages Programme (TELP) as part of its Student Academic Development Project have promoted the use of extended programmes with an integrated foundation phase (see Scott (2001) for a definition) as a means of increasing access and enhancing throughput particularly in the areas of science and technology and commerce. The recent Government Funding for Higher Education document (Ministry of Education, 2003), moreover, builds on this earlier work by offering the opportunity for such programmes to be funded in a sustainable fashion. In developing foundation programmes, however, the issue of what constitutes the provision of epistemological access (Morrow, 1994) to a system which is characterized by cultural and linguistic diversity continues to be a challenge. The purpose of this article is to report on an ethnographic study of students in a first year philosophy class. This study attempted to engage with the question of what constitutes epistemological access to the university in general and, more particularly, what constitutes access in terms of language development. The ethnographic study talked back to another study (Boughey, 2002), which attempted to identify dominant constructions of students needs in terms of the provision of epistemological access and which has already appeared in the literature. THE STUDY The study on which this article is based was located in a first year political philosophy class at a historically black South African university. In keeping with its ethnographic nature, data was collected over a year long period of engagement with the class. All classes were attended and observed and all written work submitted by the students photocopied and used as data. Interactions with students and the lecturer which took place before, during and after the lecture were recorded in the form of field notes. In addition, individual and focus group interviews were conducted with students and with the lecturer. These interviews were recorded and transcribed. Students were also asked to respond to a series of open-ended questions intended to provide an evaluation of the course. These responses were also photocopied. These various sources of data were then analysed using the framework described below. A theoretical framework At the start of the study, the framework used to analyse data had not been identified. As the study progressed, however, it became clear that Hallidays (1973, 1978, 1989, 1994) Systemic Functional Linguistics provided the most comprehensive account of the data. Key to a systemic framework is the claim (see, for example, Eggins, 1994) that language use is about making choices. The appropriateness of those choices is seen to be dependent on situational and cultural backgrounds which determine how appropriate they are. In examining the background or context against which meanings are made, it is possible to determine two separate levels: the context of situation and the context of culture. The context of situation refers to the immediate environment in which a spoken or written text is produced and determines the choices available to language users within three areas: what is being spoken or written about (the field of a text); the relationship between the language users in that situation (the tenor of a text) and the role language plays in this interaction between language users (the mode of a text). Choices about language that can be made in any context of situation are, in turn, constrained by factors in a wider context of culture. For Halliday and the critical linguists who follow him, institutions and institutional roles, as well as the concepts and ideologies associated with them, constitute the context of culture. In the study described in this article, a systemic framework allowed the issue of epistemological access to be explored, since it is possible to account for the form of students spoken and written texts by referring to a mismatch between the expectations of the dominant context of culture and context of situation (the university and the first year political philosophy class respectively) and the context of culture and context of situation which students themselves use as a reference point and against which choices which determine the texts are made. The provision of epistemological access, then, involves addressing that mismatch. This article now examines data gathered in the course of the study in terms of the theoretical framework. CONTEXT OF SITUATION In the study, the context of situation comprised the first year philosophy class taught by a white, middle-aged, male lecturer with a doctorate from a prestigious South African university. The course began by exploring the constructs of liberalism and Marxism before going on to examine the work of two liberal philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. In the course, the lecturer aimed, as far as possible, to relate the academic contexts studied to contemporary South African politics and society. Field The first element of the context of situation to be examined is the field. According to Halliday (1989: 19), the field of a text can be thought of as representing the real world as it is apprehended in our experience. This representation is not, however, restricted to the representation of concrete objects, but encompasses the realm of an imaginative or oblique representation of that experience. This latter point is important in discussing the data in this study since many of the concepts students were expected to engage with in the class were highly abstract. Conceptions of field can be seen to vary along a continuum ranging from technical to commonsense. Eggins (1994: 72) explains thus: A situation which we would describe as technical would be characterized by a significant degree of assumed knowledge among the interactants about the activity focus, whereas in an everyday (or commonsense) situation, the only assumed knowledge is common knowledge. The context of the political philosophy class not only required students to use what Eggins terms technical classifications to describe what they perceive, but also to understand the field in a way which goes beyond the commonsense. One of the problems in the texts produced by students, however, was that commonsense understandings appeared to be particularly resilient and could not be displaced by more academic, technical understandings. As already pointed out, the class began with an introduction to the concepts of liberalism and Marxism. Students then went on to examine the attempts of two liberal philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, to answer the question What are the functions of a legitimate government? One of the major problems in the texts produced by students is the imposition of commonsense understandings of a legitimate government onto the claims made by Hobbes and Locke. Consider, for example, the following piece of text in which the student writer discusses Lockes position: Government give people all what they need . It is concerned with the basic need of the people. Nowhere does Locke argue that a legitimate government is a government that attends to the needs of the people in the sense conveyed here. (The meeting of needs is, in any case, a Marxist concept and postdates Locke.) What happens here, however, is that the students own ideas about a legitimate government, developed from her understandings of present-day South African politics, remain dominant and other, more academic, understandings are not constructed. Other students ascribe concern with the meeting of needs to Hobbes. Consider, for example: He (Hobbes) says he believes that kind of government will deliver goods and needs to people and The function of government is to look whether people are getting what they need. Other function is to take from the rich and give to the poor. With regard to the field of the texts produced by students, therefore, a mismatch in expectations appears to have occurred. Lecturers reading the texts would expect students to engage with the field in a rigorous, academic fashion. For a number of reasons, however, students engagement is informed by common sense understandings. As a result, their texts fail to make meanings that are academically satisfactory. Tenor The tenor of a text is associated with interpersonal meanings or meanings concerning the relationship between speaker and listener, writer and reader. In the study, it became apparent that students lack of knowledge of the roles of author and reader appropriate to academic text did not only influence the texts they produced, but also affected the way they perceived the relationship between the two philosophers, Hobbes and Locke, whose work they were required to engage with, and their readers. In their texts, Hobbes (1914) and Locke (1924) use the answers to the same series of questions to address the larger question of what constitutes a legitimate government. The first question in the series asks What is man like?. The answer to this question then allows the second question, about what life would be like in a state of nature, or a state without any form of government or other control, to be answered. The resultant description of life in a state of nature allows the reasons for man choosing to abandon it and be governed, to be identified. These reasons then allow the functions of a legitimate government to be determined. For many students in the study, Hobbes and Locke function as preachers who are advocating a way of behaving rather than as philosophers trying to grapple with hypothetical concepts in order to answer a real world problem. They therefore understand Hobbes claim that man is naturally egocentric and violent as a claim that he should behave in this way. Similarly, Locke is understood to be claiming that man should be altruistic and law abiding. Consider for example, this opening paragraph to an essay: Hobbes says everyone must be equal and is capable to get what he/she wants. In other words he says that if someone own a business if you want that shop you must use the power to take it . . . Here, the writer understands Hobbes claims about the nature of man (i.e. that all men are equal in the sense that they are equally capable of getting what they want) and life in a state of nature as a statement about how man should behave. Any suspicion that the use of the modal must is a simple language error is denied by the same students later claim that Hobbes says nobody is allowed to own a property . Similarly, another student writes: According to Hobbes and as the state of nature is concern , there is nothing such as mine and thine. Everything is acquired by force. If you want to obtain something, you have to be brutal and strong and because you are suppose to fight in order to get it. According to my own it is not wright , if you need something that you do not have to go to those who have it and ask him to give it if he refuses just leave him because its belong to him and not to you. The perception that Hobbes and Locke are advocating ways of behaving often prompts students to introduce ideas about appropriate behaviour from discourses dominant in their own communities. In the following example, the student cites the Bible as support for his disapproval of what he believes Hobbes is recommending: There is no government or ruler:- people are not live the better life if there is no government. Even in the Bible we find that in every country there is a ruler and God work with and even sent him to the people and the country became prosperous. This attribution of the role of preacher to Hobbes and Locke is important in the provision of epistemological access since it relates to the literacy histories of students themselves. South African research (see, for example, Dison (1997) and Prinsloo & Breier (1996)) shows how literacy practices in many homes centre on engagement with essentially didactic texts. If students arrive at the university with the didactic understandings of authorial position this engagement engenders, then the provision of epistemological access must involve the exploration and validation of other positions. Tenor also relates to students understanding of their own role as writers of academic texts as well as to their understanding of their relationship to the lecturer who will read them. This understanding is influenced by their perception of the function of an academic text that, in turn, is related to perceptions of the nature of learning itself. Researchers such as Entwistle (1987) distinguish between constructive and reproductive conceptions of learning. Reproductive conceptions of learning value learning that reproduces or gives back what the lecturer has given out to the student. In contrast, constructive conceptions of learning perceive learning to involve using new knowledge to transform existing knowledge in some way. Students working with reproductive conceptions of learning will not only relate to the texts, both written and spoken, produced by their lecturer in a way which is different to students working with constructive conceptions of learning, but will also understand their own roles as producers of texts differently. For students holding a reproductive conception of learning, texts produced by lecturers and others are things to be remembered and repeated. Their own role is therefore likely to be perceived as that of text reproducer rather that of text producer and the role of the lecturer or reader of those texts to be that of arbiter of the accuracy of that reproduction. Evidence of such an understanding is seen in comments made by students when the methodology of the course was evaluated. Consider, for example, the following response made to the question What do you think about doing writing in class?: Writing have made a change in our understanding of the course as such. The end notes forces us to write what weve heard and how to respond to a certain questions asked. This kind of writing has taught us to be attentive because we know that the questions will come at the end of the lecture. Similarly: As for me, I sometimes get discouragious when you tell me the facts i.e about Hobbes and Locke, I then write down what you say respectively, and answer your questions through the notes you have provided me with, but when my work comes back, I find that you reject most of the facts that I have derived from you. Some students do appear to have an understanding of their roles as writers as other than reproductive in that they seek to individualise their work by providing examples of theory in practice. However, as the following extract intended to affirm Hobbes claim that man is naturally egocentric shows, such examples are often derived from students home discourses and sit uneasily in an academic text since points of reference between reader and writer are not shared: For an example, a person who is owning a big supermarket, ten taxis, four Dolphins, butcher and double story house but he cant stop now I had it enough then I must stop and leave for others but he still need more and more. Also problematic in relation to the tenor of their texts was students failure to distinguish between the many voices present in the class. An academic text contains many voices: the voices of the authorities the author cites as well as the voice of the author who uses these other voices to substantiate the claims s/he makes. In the philosophy class, the students had to negotiate the voice of their lecturer who was mediating the voices of the philosophers, Hobbes and Locke, as he sought to draw parallels and contrasts between their work. When writing, the students then had to develop a voice of their own whilst at the same time managing the voices of their lecturer and the two philosophers. In their writing, their difficulty in doing this manifests itself in an apparent inability to distinguish between the different voices. Consider, for example, the following exposition of Hobbes claims about life in a state of nature: State of Nature is whereby there is no police, no government, no law. The people will be nasty, poor, brutish and life will be short. Imagine in the boxing ring with two fighters without referee. It will be nasty people will do what they like sometimes the supporters will get into the ring and fight the one they do not support. In this text, we see two voices: Hobbes (who says life in the State of Nature will be nasty, brutish and short) and the lecturers (who used the analogy of the boxing ring to illustrate Hobbes claims about life in a State of Nature). The author of the text does not acknowledge these voices. She does not tell us, for example, that According to Hobbes, life in a state of nature will be . . ., neither does she acknowledge the boxing ring analogy as an attempt to explain Hobbes claim by writing something like Life in a state of nature could be compared to . . .. Rather, she writes her text in one voice which is not even her own. In the following extract, the student introduces the voice of the course study guide (which states According to Locke, all men are made by God and are sent into the world to do Gods business, men have equal moral worth and This means that no man exists for the use of another man), Lockes own voice (All men are the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise maker) and, interestingly, voices from the religious discourses she is familiar with (all of us we are the children of God, all men are created by God): According to Lockes point of view, all men are made by God and are sent into the world to do Gods business because all of us are the children of God, all men are created by God they are equal and have equal moral worth. This means that there is no man which exist for the use of another man. All men are the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise maker. They are sent into the world about his business. No man is made for the use of another man . . . In the class, the lecturers attempts to help students develop a voice in their writing were often misunderstood. A common exhortation was for students to give their own opinion and students often worked hard to fulfill this request. Giving ones own opinion in academic discourses is very different from giving an opinion elsewhere, however. In academic discourses, an opinion is constructed out of scholarship, which involves examining the work of authorities and building a case that is personally meaningful out of their work and ones own research. In the world outside the university, giving an opinion might simply involve a spontaneous response which is not considered or measured in any way and which is rooted in unexamined assumptions and beliefs about the world at large. In the following extract, the student provides her opinion of Lockes view of man as basically altruistic, citing her own knowledge of the world as evidence: For Locke I do not think that he is right about people having an inborn sense of good or bad, because he cannot even be sure or positive that they are ultruistic . He fails to describe people as ultruistic because I dont think there are such people. I have never heard of people who share their clothes or give food or whatever good to help poor people because they think they are all valuable to God so they should also be valuable between ourselves. Difficulties students encountered in understanding the nature of an academic opinion as well as the potentially misleading nature of advice given by the lecturer are evident in this response to the question What do you think about the responses to your writing? on the course evaluation questionnaire: Well, the response are good and also help a great deal but sometimes I do not understand the comments because I was made to know that in philosophy nobody is right or wrong so sometimes the comments seem quite leading, hence it does not become my opinion any more but yours. Apart from giving advice about offering an opinion, the lecturer often tried to mediate the task and help students find a voice by explaining what they needed to do. This advice is often restated in very crude terms: In this essay, what I have to talk about is justice. This justice is divided up into two sections such as Liberal idea and the Marxist idea . . . and: Meanwhile I have to clarify what justice is, according to the point of view of Oxford dictionary . . . Recourse to dictionary definitions is fairly common in the data set examined and is yet another indication of students lack of understanding of the way in which academic knowledge is constructed in these particular contexts. In all the examples of students attempts to comply with the lecturers exhortations, elements of what Poynton (1985) terms the power continuum of tenor can be discerned. For Poynton, the power continuum ranges from situations where the power relationship of writer and audience is equal to those where it is unequal. The context of situation of the philosophy class exhibited unequal power relations in favour of the lecturer. Students efforts to comply with his exhortations and advice can therefore be interpreted as manifestations of this dimension of tenor at work in their texts, thwarted by their lack of understanding of academic culture. Mode For systemicists, mode refers to the role language plays in an interaction. In exploring this role, Eggins (1994), distinguishes between the role of language in a face-to-face conversation and the use of written language to produce an academic essay. In the face-to-face conversation, language is supported by gesture and intonation and meanings tend to be constructed jointly as participants provide feedback to each other, extending and challenging claims as the interaction progresses. The writer of the essay, on the other hand, does not have the benefit of the sort of immediate feedback characteristic of a face-to-face conversation and is also solely dependent on the written symbols on the page in the process of making meaning. In her discussion, Eggins (1994: 55) is careful to point out that she is considering written situations in our culture since it is the context of what might be termed western mainstream culture which has determined the appropriateness of the rhetorical strategies she identifies. This point is important in the context of this piece of research, which revealed students importing rhetorical strategies more appropriate to other contexts into their writing. In a piece of writing entitled Weaknesses of the Marxist Idea of Justice, for example, a student launches directly into a series of abrupt points after the title: People do not work hard. People are tired of working hard and at the end they get a medal instead of money. So the economy of the country will drop. The conventions of academic literacy require that students should contextualise an assignment on the weaknesses of the Marxist system by outlining or defining that system before explicating their own understanding of its weaknesses. This student, however, appears to conceptualise the task almost as a question and answer revision session characteristic of a classroom where the interaction could be imagined thus: Teacher: All right. Who can tell me the about the weaknesses of the Marxist system of justice. Zanele, tell me one weakness. Zanele: People dont work hard. People are tired of working hard and at the end they get a medal instead of money. So the economy of the country will drop. Teacher: Thats right! People dont get extra money for working hard because they are rewarded according to their needs. People who work hard are rewarded with medals so people dont work and then the economy suffers. In the imagined dialogue, there is no need to contextualise as the context is created within the classroom situation. The students response to the teacher is characteristic of this sort of interaction. She repeats herself producing, in Chafes (1982) terms, fragmented language (People dont work hard. People are tired of working hard) and does not integrate the notions of not working hard and being tired of working hard. The teacher, typically, fills in with more detail. Unfortunately for the student, what might be effective communication in the classroom does not work in writing an academic essay and she is left with a decontextualised utterance in which propositions appear in fast and furious order without appearing to have any links between them. One way of describing the decontextualised, fragmented character of the language use described above is that it demonstrates a common sense approach to essay writing, which has grown out of students familiarity with primary discourses rather than an approach that has been developed by more formal, school-based, secondary discourses. However, not all the rhetorical strategies found in students texts originate in primary discourses. Consider, for example, the following extract from an essay contrasting Hobbes and Locke: After God created heaven and earth, he gave a man the right to rule the land and to rule over the animals. Therefore man have the right to own land and to do everything if the land is yours. God does not like people who are lazy. God wants us to use our hands e.g. ploughing. In this extract, the student begins by using church-based rhetoric (After God created...). Having begun by using an elevated form of language, however, she then assumes her own voice, that of a church goer interpreting the words of the preacher for others (God does not like people who are lazy. God wants us to use our hands) before going on to end with a more academic voice (e.g. ploughing). As Hull and Rose (1990) point out, trying on language forms is fundamental to language use since: ...human beings continually approximate each others language to establish group membership, to grow, and to define themselves in new ways (p.242). While many of the strategies adopted by the students in the philosophy class might not have been appropriate to the task defined by their lecturer, their attempts to approximate what they perceive to be appropriate forms is significant in terms of their attempts to develop academic literacy and thus gain membership of academic discourses. CONCLUSION In making choices pertaining to the field, tenor and mode of the texts produced within the context of situation of the philosophy class, it is clear that students were drawing on a different background to that of their lecturer. These differences can be attributed to differences in the cultural contexts serving as reference points for each. Working from this sort of understanding, it is evident that the provision of epistemological access involves more than introducing students to a set of a-cultural, a-social skills and strategies to cope with academic learning and its products. Rather, it is about bridging the gaps between the respective worlds students and lecturers draw on. Bridging those gaps not only requires negotiation and mediation, but also making overt the rules and conventions (Ballard & Clanchy, 1988) that determine what can count as knowledge. At foundation level, it also implies a focus on engagement with content rather than on assumedly autonomous skills and strategies, since it is only through such engagement that students can explore the academic constructs and thus acquire understandings of what counts as appropriate in the construction of academic knowledge and academic texts. At the same time, however, it is necessary to ensure that time is available for students to truly engage with the content. If programmes are content heavy, then it is likely that engagement will be superficial. There are also implications for the staffing of foundation programmes. All too often, teaching at foundation level is left to disciplinary novices, who are themselves still unfamiliar with the rules and conventions, or to specially employed Academic Development practitioners often employed on the basis of their experience as teachers. 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Locke, J. 1924. Of Civil Government: Two Treatises. London: J M Dent. Ministry of Education. 2003. Funding of Public Higher Education: A New Framework. Pretoria: Ministry of Education. Morrow, W. 1994. Entitlement and achievement in education. Studies in Philosophy and Education 13(i):33-37. Poynton, C. 1985. Language and gender: making the difference. Geelong, Victoria: Deakin University Press. Prinsloo, M. & Breier, M. 1996. The Social Uses of Literacy. SACHED & John Benjamins: Bertsham & Amsterdam. Scott, I. 2001. Public Funding for Academic Development: Analysis and Proposals. Individual submission to the Ministry of Education in response to the 2001 Discussion Document Funding of Public Higher Education: A New Framework. Cape Town: UCT.     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ࡱ> #` bjbj\.\. 4>D>D(8"8"8"8p"4"T=:##"&#&#&#$$$9999999$;hC>9/-$$/-/-9&#&#9555/-&#&#95/-955:^8\9&#" `X@8"/1$9 9 :0=:.9.3?33?\93?\9`$&5(o*$$$99Q5X$$$=:/-/-/-/-8"8" EPISTEMOLOGICAL ACCESS TO THE UNIVERSITY: AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE C Boughey Rhodes University ABSTRACT The need to increase the number of African students studying at tertiary level, particularly in science, technology and commerce, has led to the establishment of foundation programmes at many institutions. In spite of attempts to provide formal access in this way, the issue of what constitutes epistemological access still remains under-researched in South Africa. This paper uses an ethnographic study of students in a first year class at a historically black South African university in order to engage with the issue of epistemological access to the university in general and, more particularly, with what constitutes access in terms of language development. INTRODUCTION Ten years after the first democratic election, access to higher education remains problematic for the majority of South Africans. Although the number of African students in the entire higher education system has grown, with Cloete & Bunting (2000), for example, quoting an increase in the gross participation rate from 9% in 1993 to 13% in 2000, they continue to be clustered in areas with low earning potential (such as the humanities and education) and are often over represented in the slow throughput and high attrition rates which plague the system. In recent years, redress funding for academic development made available by the Department of Education along with workshops funded by the Tertiary Education Linkages Programme (TELP) as part of its Student Academic Development Project have promoted the use of extended programmes with an integrated foundation phase (see Scott (2001) for a definition) as a means of increasing access and enhancing throughput particularly in the areas of science and technology and commerce. The recent Government Funding for Higher Education document (Ministry of Education, 2003), moreover, builds on this earlier work by offering the opportunity for such programmes to be funded in a sustainable fashion. In developing foundation programmes, however, the issue of what constitutes the provision of epistemological access (Morrow, 1994) to a system which is characterized by cultural and linguistic diversity continues to be a challenge. The purpose of this article is to report on an ethnographic study of students in a first year philosophy class. This study attempted to engage with the question of what constitutes epistemological access to the university in general and, more particularly, what constitutes access in terms of language development. The ethnographic study talked back to another study (Boughey, 2002), which attempted to identify dominant constructions of students needs in terms of the provision of epistemological access and which has already appeared in the literature. THE STUDY The study on which this article is based was located in a first year political philosophy class at a historically black South African university. In keeping with its ethnographic nature, data was collected over a year long period of engagement with the class. All classes were attended and observed and all written work submitted by the students photocopied and used as data. Interactions with students and the lecturer which took place before, during and after the lecture were recorded in the form of field notes. In addition, individual and focus group interviews were conducted with students and with the lecturer. These interviews were recorded and transcribed. Students were also asked to respond to a series of open-ended questions intended to provide an evaluation of the course. These responses were also photocopied. These various sources of data were then analysed using the framework described below. A theoretical framework At the start of the study, the framework used to analyse data had not been identified. As the study progressed, however, it became clear that Hallidays (1973, 1978, 1989, 1994) Systemic Functional Linguistics provided the most comprehensive account of the data. Key to a systemic framework is the claim (see, for example, Eggins, 1994) that language use is about making choices. The appropriateness of those choices is seen to be dependent on situational and cultural backgrounds which determine how appropriate they are. In examining the background or context against which meanings are made, it is possible to determine two separate levels: the context of situation and the context of culture. The context of situation refers to the immediate environment in which a spoken or written text is produced and determines the choices available to language users within three areas: what is being spoken or written about (the field of a text); the relationship between the language users in that situation (the tenor of a text) and the role language plays in this interaction between language users (the mode of a text). Choices about language that can be made in any context of situation are, in turn, constrained by factors in a wider context of culture. For Halliday and the critical linguists who follow him, institutions and institutional roles, as well as the concepts and ideologies associated with them, constitute the context of culture. In the study described in this article, a systemic framework allowed the issue of epistemological access to be explored, since it is possible to account for the form of students spoken and written texts by referring to a mismatch between the expectations of the dominant context of culture and context of situation (the university and the first year political philosophy class respectively) and the context of culture and context of situation which students themselves use as a reference point and against which choices which determine the texts are made. The provision of epistemological access, then, involves addressing that mismatch. This article now examines data gathered in the course of the study in terms of the theoretical framework. CONTEXT OF SITUATION In the study, the context of situation comprised the first year philosophy class taught by a white, middle-aged, male lecturer with a doctorate from a prestigious South African university. The course began by exploring the constructs of liberalism and Marxism before going on to examine the work of two liberal philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. In the course, the lecturer aimed, as far as possible, to relate the academic contexts studied to contemporary South African politics and society. Field The first element of the context of situation to be examined is the field. According to Halliday (1989: 19), the field of a text can be thought of as representing the real world as it is apprehended in our experience. This representation is not, however, restricted to the representation of concrete objects, but encompasses the realm of an imaginative or oblique representation of that experience. This latter point is important in discussing the data in this study since many of the concepts students were expected to engage with in the class were highly abstract. Conceptions of field can be seen to vary along a continuum ranging from technical to commonsense. Eggins (1994: 72) explains thus: A situation which we would describe as technical would be characterized by a significant degree of assumed knowledge among the interactants about the activity focus, whereas in an everyday (or commonsense) situation, the only assumed knowledge is common knowledge. The context of the political philosophy class not only required students to use what Eggins terms technical classifications to describe what they perceive, but also to understand the field in a way which goes beyond the commonsense. One of the problems in the texts produced by students, however, was that commonsense understandings appeared to be particularly resilient and could not be displaced by more academic, technical understandings. As already pointed out, the class began with an introduction to the concepts of liberalism and Marxism. Students then went on to examine the attempts of two liberal philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, to answer the question What are the functions of a legitimate government? One of the major problems in the texts produced by students is the imposition of commonsense understandings of a legitimate government onto the claims made by Hobbes and Locke. Consider, for example, the following piece of text in which the student writer discusses Lockes position: Government give people all what they need . It is concerned with the basic need of the people. Nowhere does Locke argue that a legitimate government is a government that attends to the needs of the people in the sense conveyed here. (The meeting of needs is, in any case, a Marxist concept and postdates Locke.) What happens here, however, is that the students own ideas about a legitimate government, developed from her understandings of present-day South African politics, remain dominant and other, more academic, understandings are not constructed. Other students ascribe concern with the meeting of needs to Hobbes. Consider, for example: He (Hobbes) says he believes that kind of government will deliver goods and needs to people and The function of government is to look whether people are getting what they need. Other function is to take from the rich and give to the poor. With regard to the field of the texts produced by students, therefore, a mismatch in expectations appears to have occurred. Lecturers reading the texts would expect students to engage with the field in a rigorous, academic fashion. For a number of reasons, however, students engagement is informed by common sense understandings. As a result, their texts fail to make meanings that are academically satisfactory. Tenor The tenor of a text is associated with interpersonal meanings or meanings concerning the relationship between speaker and listener, writer and reader. In the study, it became apparent that students lack of knowledge of the roles of author and reader appropriate to academic text did not only influence the texts they produced, but also affected the way they perceived the relationship between the two philosophers, Hobbes and Locke, whose work they were required to engage with, and their readers. In their texts, Hobbes (1914) and Locke (1924) use the answers to the same series of questions to address the larger question of what constitutes a legitimate government. The first question in the series asks What is man like?. The answer to this question then allows the second question, about what life would be like in a state of nature, or a state without any form of government or other control, to be answered. The resultant description of life in a state of nature allows the reasons for man choosing to abandon it and be governed, to be identified. These reasons then allow the functions of a legitimate government to be determined. For many students in the study, Hobbes and Locke function as preachers who are advocating a way of behaving rather than as philosophers trying to grapple with hypothetical concepts in order to answer a real world problem. They therefore understand Hobbes claim that man is naturally egocentric and violent as a claim that he should behave in this way. Similarly, Locke is understood to be claiming that man should be altruistic and law abiding. Consider for example, this opening paragraph to an essay: Hobbes says everyone must be equal and is capable to get what he/she wants. In other words he says that if someone own a business if you want that shop you must use the power to take it . . . Here, the writer understands Hobbes claims about the nature of man (i.e. that all men are equal in the sense that they are equally capable of getting what they want) and life in a state of nature as a statement about how man should behave. Any suspicion that the use of the modal must is a simple language error is denied by the same students later claim that Hobbes says nobody is allowed to own a property . Similarly, another student writes: According to Hobbes and as the state of nature is concern , there is nothing such as mine and thine. Everything is acquired by force. If you want to obtain something, you have to be brutal and strong and because you are suppose to fight in order to get it. According to my own it is not wright , if you need something that you do not have to go to those who have it and ask him to give it if he refuses just leave him because its belong to him and not to you. The perception that Hobbes and Locke are advocating ways of behaving often prompts students to introduce ideas about appropriate behaviour from discourses dominant in their own communities. In the following example, the student cites the Bible as support for his disapproval of what he believes Hobbes is recommending: There is no government or ruler:- people are not live the better life if there is no government. Even in the Bible we find that in every country there is a ruler and God work with and even sent him to the people and the country became prosperous. This attribution of the role of preacher to Hobbes and Locke is important in the provision of epistemological access since it relates to the literacy histories of students themselves. South African research (see, for example, Dison (1997) and Prinsloo & Breier (1996)) shows how literacy practices in many homes centre on engagement with essentially didactic texts. If students arrive at the university with the didactic understandings of authorial position this engagement engenders, then the provision of epistemological access must involve the exploration and validation of other positions. Tenor also relates to students understanding of their own role as writers of academic texts as well as to their understanding of their relationship to the lecturer who will read them. This understanding is influenced by their perception of the function of an academic text that, in turn, is related to perceptions of the nature of learning itself. Researchers such as Entwistle (1987) distinguish between constructive and reproductive conceptions of learning. Reproductive conceptions of learning value learning that reproduces or gives back what the lecturer has given out to the student. In contrast, constructive conceptions of learning perceive learning to involve using new knowledge to transform existing knowledge in some way. Students working with reproductive conceptions of learning will not only relate to the texts, both written and spoken, produced by their lecturer in a way which is different to students working with constructive conceptions of learning, but will also understand their own roles as producers of texts differently. For students holding a reproductive conception of learning, texts produced by lecturers and others are things to be remembered and repeated. Their own role is therefore likely to be perceived as that of text reproducer rather that of text producer and the role of the lecturer or reader of those texts to be that of arbiter of the accuracy of that reproduction. Evidence of such an understanding is seen in comments made by students when the methodology of the course was evaluated. Consider, for example, the following response made to the question What do you think about doing writing in class?: Writing have made a change in our understanding of the course as such. The end notes forces us to write what weve heard and how to respond to a certain questions asked. This kind of writing has taught us to be attentive because we know that the questions will come at the end of the lecture. Similarly: As for me, I sometimes get discouragious when you tell me the facts i.e about Hobbes and Locke, I then write down what you say respectively, and answer your questions through the notes you have provided me with, but when my work comes back, I find that you reject most of the facts that I have derived from you. Some students do appear to have an understanding of their roles as writers as other than reproductive in that they seek to individualise their work by providing examples of theory in practice. However, as the following extract intended to affirm Hobbes claim that man is naturally egocentric shows, such examples are often derived from students home discourses and sit uneasily in an academic text since points of reference between reader and writer are not shared: For an example, a person who is owning a big supermarket, ten taxis, four Dolphins, butcher and double story house but he cant stop now I had it enough then I must stop and leave for others but he still need more and more. Also problematic in relation to the tenor of their texts was students failure to distinguish between the many voices present in the class. An academic text contains many voices: the voices of the authorities the author cites as well as the voice of the author who uses these other voices to substantiate the claims s/he makes. In the philosophy class, the students had to negotiate the voice of their lecturer who was mediating the voices of the philosophers, Hobbes and Locke, as he sought to draw parallels and contrasts between their work. When writing, the students then had to develop a voice of their own whilst at the same time managing the voices of their lecturer and the two philosophers. In their writing, their difficulty in doing this manifests itself in an apparent inability to distinguish between the different voices. Consider, for example, the following exposition of Hobbes claims about life in a state of nature: State of Nature is whereby there is no police, no government, no law. The people will be nasty, poor, brutish and life will be short. Imagine in the boxing ring with two fighters without referee. It will be nasty people will do what they like sometimes the supporters will get into the ring and fight the one they do not support. In this text, we see two voices: Hobbes (who says life in the State of Nature will be nasty, brutish and short) and the lecturers (who used the analogy of the boxing ring to illustrate Hobbes claims about life in a State of Nature). The author of the text does not acknowledge these voices. She does not tell us, for example, that According to Hobbes, life in a state of nature will be . . ., neither does she acknowledge the boxing ring analogy as an attempt to explain Hobbes claim by writing something like Life in a state of nature could be compared to . . .. Rather, she writes her text in one voice which is not even her own. In the following extract, the student introduces the voice of the course study guide (which states According to Locke, all men are made by God and are sent into the world to do Gods business, men have equal moral worth and This means that no man exists for the use of another man), Lockes own voice (All men are the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise maker) and, interestingly, voices from the religious discourses she is familiar with (all of us we are the children of God, all men are created by God): According to Lockes point of view, all men are made by God and are sent into the world to do Gods business because all of us are the children of God, all men are created by God they are equal and have equal moral worth. This means that there is no man which exist for the use of another man. All men are the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise maker. They are sent into the world about his business. No man is made for the use of another man . . . In the class, the lecturers attempts to help students develop a voice in their writing were often misunderstood. A common exhortation was for students to give their own opinion and students often worked hard to fulfill this request. Giving ones own opinion in academic discourses is very different from giving an opinion elsewhere, however. In academic discourses, an opinion is constructed out of scholarship, which involves examining the work of authorities and building a case that is personally meaningful out of their work and ones own research. In the world outside the university, giving an opinion might simply involve a spontaneous response which is not considered or measured in any way and which is rooted in unexamined assumptions and beliefs about the world at large. In the following extract, the student provides her opinion of Lockes view of man as basically altruistic, citing her own knowledge of the world as evidence: For Locke I do not think that he is right about people having an inborn sense of good or bad, because he cannot even be sure or positive that they are ultruistic . He fails to describe people as ultruistic because I dont think there are such people. I have never heard of people who share their clothes or give food or whatever good to help poor people because they think they are all valuable to God so they should also be valuable between ourselves. Difficulties students encountered in understanding the nature of an academic opinion as well as the potentially misleading nature of advice given by the lecturer are evident in this response to the question What do you think about the responses to your writing? on the course evaluation questionnaire: Well, the response are good and also help a great deal but sometimes I do not understand the comments because I was made to know that in philosophy nobody is right or wrong so sometimes the comments seem quite leading, hence it does not become my opinion any more but yours. Apart from giving advice about offering an opinion, the lecturer often tried to mediate the task and help students find a voice by explaining what they needed to do. This advice is often restated in very crude terms: In this essay, what I have to talk about is justice. This justice is divided up into two sections such as Liberal idea and the Marxist idea . . . and: Meanwhile I have to clarify what justice is, according to the point of view of Oxford dictionary . . . Recourse to dictionary definitions is fairly common in the data set examined and is yet another indication of students lack of understanding of the way in which academic knowledge is constructed in these particular contexts. In all the examples of students attempts to comply with the lecturers exhortations, elements of what Poynton (1985) terms the power continuum of tenor can be discerned. For Poynton, the power continuum ranges from situations where the power relationship of writer and audience is equal to those where it is unequal. The context of situation of the philosophy class exhibited unequal power relations in favour of the lecturer. Students efforts to comply with his exhortations and advice can therefore be interpreted as manifestations of this dimension of tenor at work in their texts, thwarted by their lack of understanding of academic culture. Mode For systemicists, mode refers to the role language plays in an interaction. In exploring this role, Eggins (1994), distinguishes between the role of language in a face-to-face conversation and the use of written language to produce an academic essay. In the face-to-face conversation, language is supported by gesture and intonation and meanings tend to be constructed jointly as participants provide feedback to each other, extending and challenging claims as the interaction progresses. The writer of the essay, on the other hand, does not have the benefit of the sort of immediate feedback characteristic of a face-to-face conversation and is also solely dependent on the written symbols on the page in the process of making meaning. In her discussion, Eggins (1994: 55) is careful to point out that she is considering written situations in our culture since it is the context of what might be termed western mainstream culture which has determined the appropriateness of the rhetorical strategies she identifies. This point is important in the context of this piece of research, which revealed students importing rhetorical strategies more appropriate to other contexts into their writing. In a piece of writing entitled Weaknesses of the Marxist Idea of Justice, for example, a student launches directly into a series of abrupt points after the title: People do not work hard. People are tired of working hard and at the end they get a medal instead of money. So the economy of the country will drop. The conventions of academic literacy require that students should contextualise an assignment on the weaknesses of the Marxist system by outlining or defining that system before explicating their own understanding of its weaknesses. This student, however, appears to conceptualise the task almost as a question and answer revision session characteristic of a classroom where the interaction could be imagined thus: Teacher: All right. Who can tell me the about the weaknesses of the Marxist system of justice. Zanele, tell me one weakness. Zanele: People dont work hard. People are tired of working hard and at the end they get a medal instead of money. So the economy of the country will drop. Teacher: Thats right! People dont get extra money for working hard because they are rewarded according to their needs. People who work hard are rewarded with medals so people dont work and then the economy suffers. In the imagined dialogue, there is no need to contextualise as the context is created within the classroom situation. The students response to the teacher is characteristic of this sort of interaction. She repeats herself producing, in Chafes (1982) terms, fragmented language (People dont work hard. People are tired of working hard) and does not integrate the notions of not working hard and being tired of working hard. The teacher, typically, fills in with more detail. Unfortunately for the student, what might be effective communication in the classroom does not work in writing an academic essay and she is left with a decontextualised utterance in which propositions appear in fast and furious order without appearing to have any links between them. One way of describing the decontextualised, fragmented character of the language use described above is that it demonstrates a common sense approach to essay writing, which has grown out of students familiarity with primary discourses rather than an approach that has been developed by more formal, school-based, secondary discourses. However, not all the rhetorical strategies found in students texts originate in primary discourses. Consider, for example, the following extract from an essay contrasting Hobbes and Locke: After God created heaven and earth, he gave a man the right to rule the land and to rule over the animals. Therefore man have the right to own land and to do everything if the land is yours. God does not like people who are lazy. God wants us to use our hands e.g. ploughing. In this extract, the student begins by using church-based rhetoric (After God created...). Having begun by using an elevated form of language, however, she then assumes her own voice, that of a church goer interpreting the words of the preacher for others (God does not like people who are lazy. God wants us to use our hands) before going on to end with a more academic voice (e.g. ploughing). As Hull and Rose (1990) point out, trying on language forms is fundamental to language use since: ...human beings continually approximate each others language to establish group membership, to grow, and to define themselves in new ways (p.242). While many of the strategies adopted by the students in the philosophy class might not have been appropriate to the task defined by their lecturer, their attempts to approximate what they perceive to be appropriate forms is significant in terms of their attempts to develop academic literacy and thus gain membership of academic discourses. CONCLUSION In making choices pertaining to the field, tenor and mode of the texts produced within the context of situation of the philosophy class, it is clear that students were drawing on a different background to that of their lecturer. These differences can be attributed to differences in the cultural contexts serving as reference points for each. Working from this sort of understanding, it is evident that the provision of epistemological access involves more than introducing students to a set of a-cultural, a-social skills and strategies to cope with academic learning and its products. Rather, it is about bridging the gaps between the respective worlds students and lecturers draw on. Bridging those gaps not only requires negotiation and mediation, but also making overt the rules and conventions (Ballard & Clanchy, 1988) that determine what can count as knowledge. At foundation level, it also implies a focus on engagement with content rather than on assumedly autonomous skills and strategies, since it is only through such engagement that students can explore the academic constructs and thus acquire understandings of what counts as appropriate in the construction of academic knowledge and academic texts. At the same time, however, it is necessary to ensure that time is available for students to truly engage with the content. If programmes are content heavy, then it is likely that engagement will be superficial. There are also implications for the staffing of foundation programmes. All too often, teaching at foundation level is left to disciplinary novices, who are themselves still unfamiliar with the rules and conventions, or to specially employed Academic Development practitioners often employed on the basis of their experience as teachers. The need for ways in which knowledge is constructed in the discipline to be made overt to students suggests that collaboration between disciplinary experts and Academic Development experts who are able to facilitate this process is crucial both at curriculum design level and during the actual teaching of the programme. REFERENCES Ballard, B. & Clanchy, J. 1988. Literacy in the university: an anthropological approach. In G. Taylor, B. Ballard, V. Beasley, H.K. Bock, J. Clanchy and P. Nightingale. Literacy by Degrees. Milton Keynes: The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press. Boughey, C. 2002. Naming students problems: an analysis of language-related discourses at a South African University. Teaching in Higher Education 7(3): 295-307. Chafe, W. L. 1982. Integration and involvement in speaking, writing and oral literature. In Spoken and Written Language: Exploring Orality and Literacy, edited by D Tannen. New York: Ablex. Cloete, N. & Bunting, I. 2000. Higher Education Transformation: Assessing Performance in South Africa. Pretoria: CHET. Dison, A. 1997. The acquisition and use of literacies within social contexts: Tsholo Mothibis story. Academic Development 3(2): 53-74. Eggins, S. 1994. An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Pinter. Entwistle, N. 1987. Understanding Classroom Learning. Sevenoaks: Hodder & Stoughton. Halliday, M.A.K. 1973. Explorations in the Functions of Language. London: Edward Arnold. Halliday, M.A.K. 1978. Language as social semiotic. London: Edward Arnold. Halliday, MAK. 1989. Spoken and Written Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Halliday, M.A.K. 1994. Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold. Hobbes, T. 1914. Leviathan. London: J M Dent. Hull, M. & Rose, G. 1990. Towards a social-cognitive understanding of problematic reading and writing. In The Right to Literacy edited by A.A. Lunsford, H. Moglen & J. Slevin. New York: Modern Language Association of America. Locke, J. 1924. Of Civil Government: Two Treatises. London: J M Dent. Ministry of Education. 2003. Funding of Public Higher Education: A New Framework. Pretoria: Ministry of Education. Morrow, W. 1994. Entitlement and achievement in education. Studies in Philosophy and Education 13(i):33-37. Poynton, C. 1985. Language and gender: making the difference. Geelong, Victoria: Deakin University Press. Prinsloo, M. & Breier, M. 1996. The Social Uses of Literacy. SACHED & John Benjamins: Bertsham & Amsterdam. Scott, I. 2001. Public Funding for Academic Development: Analysis and Proposals. Individual submission to the Ministry of Education in response to the 2001 Discussion Document Funding of Public Higher Education: A New Framework. Cape Town: UCT.     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