‘Fit for change’: a preliminary exploration of the relationship between academic literacy practitioners and disciplinary specialists as a complex system

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    At tertiary institutions in South Africa and internationally, academic literacy practitioners and disciplinary specialists have traditionally functioned as separate communities of practice. However, research indicates that academic literacy is most successfully acquired when it is integrated into and taught within the contexts of specific academic disciplines. This article explores the transgression of the boundaries between academic literacy teaching and study disciplines, in general, and the subsequent broadening of the social structures within which academic disciplines function at tertiary institutions. The relationship between academic literacy practitioners and disciplinary specialists at Stellenbosch University is correspondingly investigated as a complex system, focusing on the variable and non-linear interaction among the co-evolving components of the system and its environment, the emergent structure of the resultant transdisciplinary community of practice, and the ‘fitness’ of this community – its ability to cope with the challenges and opportunities brought on by constant change. The article will demonstrate the contribution that a complex systems approach could make to the collaboration between academic literacy practitioners and disciplinary specialists at tertiary institutions, in general, and at Stellenbosch University, in particular, and subsequently, to an understanding of the collective focus on student success in these two communities of practice.