chapter  2
20 Pages


Official discourse on the ‘problem’ of student academic writing in higher education ignores much recent thinking on language and literacy generally and research on student writing more specifically. In broad terms, as argued in Chapter 1, the dominant official approach is to frame student writing as a skill, drawing implicitly on notions of language as transparent and of both language and user as independent of each other, and of context. An alternative perspective can be described as that of writing as social practice, which was outlined in broad terms in Chapter 1. However, there is much diversity in the research writings that take a social practice approach, and include not least the following overlapping perspectives: socio-cognitive (for example Flower 1994); socio-rhetorical or ‘new rhetoric’ (see for example, albeit with different interests, Bizzell 1990, 1997; Bazerman 1981, 1988; Berlin 1988), activity theory (see for example Russell 1997), some genre approaches (see for example Berkenkotter and Huckin 1995) and cultural studies (Horner and Lu 1999). My own perspective, reflecting in many ways the local institutional and research contexts in which I study and work, draws mainly from New Literacy Studies and critical discourse analysis (for New Literacy Studies, see Baynham 1995; Barton and Hamilton 1998; Ivanic 1998; Lea and Street 1998; Barton, Hamilton and Ivanic 2000). It is a developing perspective, which informs, and is informed by, student-writers’ accounts of their engagement in academic writing.