The Case of “Underdeveloped” Academic Literacy Skills of Undergraduates: Contrasting Perspectives

Neslihan Bilikozen

Abstract


This article reports on the partial results of a longitudinal study I conducted to investigate the first-year students’ experiences in dealing with the challenges they face while attaining the academic literacy skills required of them and constructing their academic identities at an American university in the UAE. While the challenges encountered by the students, all of whom were Arab L2 speakers of English, were reported elsewhere, the focus of this paper is on the contrasts between the students’ and professors’ perspectives. The main source of data was semi-structured interviews with thirteen professors the student-participants took courses from. The analysis of the interviews with the professors highlighted a discrepancy between their expectations and students’ knowledge of the required academic literacy demands in English. It also revealed that many of the professors either underestimated or were unaware of the struggles students go through to meet those expectations. Another important discrepancy revealed was between the perspectives of the professors who teach academic writing courses and those who teach discipline-specific courses. These findings call for enhancing communication not only between professors and students, but also collaboration between English language/writing experts and academic staff in the disciplines.

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