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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


An Investigation into the Early Reading Practices of Xhosa Home-language students at a South African University:: Reading for a Degree?

Penelope Mary Niven.

This paper reports on an ethnographic investigation into the home and community based reading practices of six Xhosa home-language students in their first year of study at a South African University where English is the language of teaching and learning. It explores the culturally- shaped attitudes to written texts that the students bring with them into a University context and their subsequent efforts to become academic readers. Using Framing Theory (Reid and MacLachlan, 1994) the paper analyses the sorts of matches and mismatches that arise between the students' frames about the nature of reading the frames implicitly considered normative by their teachers in the institution. It accounts for the students' difficulties in achieving epistemological access in terms of the failure of both the student and the teachers to recognise each others' conflicting contructions about the nature and purpose of 'reading for a degree'.


Penelope Mary Niven  (South Africa)
Junior Lecturer in Linguistics
Department of English Language and Linguistics Humanities Faculty
Rhodes University

My work at Rhodes University involves, firstly, tutoring on a course designed for ESL students from disadvantaged communities deemed underprepared for university study. Secondly, I run a programme to develop the writing skills of Commerce students. Finally, I teach a course for post-graduates entitled Issues in Language and Education. I am in the process of completing my Masters research into the reading practices of Xhosa students at the university.

  • Reading practices
  • Ethnography
  • Xhosa students
  • Framing Theory
  • Academic reading practices
Person as Subject
  • South African students whose home language is Xhosa

(30 min Conference Paper, English)