Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

Developing the Academic Student Identity: Tensions between Academic, Social and African Identities

Sioux McKenna.

I use a discourse analysis of interviews with educators and learners to consider the shifting identities students claim for themselves within higher education. The educators provide an understanding of students’ acquisition of academic literacy practices in terms of a discourse of motivation; this discourse is based on a fairly fixed identity that was not evident in the student data. The students discuss their experiences in terms of tensions between multiple identities. The data shows that new students feel conflict between acquiring the discourses needed for membership within a social grouping while also being expected to take on elevated academic norms and values. They also express disquiet at the perceived rejection by the institution of their African ways of being.


Sioux McKenna  (South Africa)
Acting Director
Centre for Higher Education Development
Durban Institute of Technology

I work in academic literacy development. Our model of intervention has changed significantly over the years from a remedial focus on students to research in curriculum development investigating how notions of academic literacy act as gatekeeping mechanisms in our institution. My research looks at places in the curriculum where students' multiple identities are valued or rejected. I have also become interested in the shifts in national educational policy from an emphasis on social redress after apartheid to a focus on an economy driven training model.

  • Academic literacy
  • Identity
  • Motivation

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)