Agency, discourse and academic practice: Reconceptualising international students in an Australian university

Kettle, Margaret Anne (2007). Agency, discourse and academic practice: Reconceptualising international students in an Australian university PhD Thesis, School of Education , University of Queensland.

       
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Author Kettle, Margaret Anne
Thesis Title Agency, discourse and academic practice: Reconceptualising international students in an Australian university
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Gloria Dall'Alba
Abstract/Summary My research project is the case study of a Master of Education course called Debates in Education and Leadership as told through the accounts of six international postgraduate students. Most were undertaking study in Australia for the first time. The study is a detailed investigation of the students’ representations of and participation in course practices. It is a discourse analysis with a focus on social practice, power relations and knowledge. The study describes academic activities within the course and the lecturer’s and students’ ways of interacting and acting, of representing knowledge and the social world, and of being. The analysis draws out the students’ ‘readings’ of preferred ways of doing academic work and identifies the programs of strategic action that they undertook as a result. The genesis of this study lies in my experiences with students in academic English programs. My aim in the study is to build a comprehensive understanding of student practice with a view to challenging the reductive images in the research literature and circulating in popular discourse. Utilising ethnographic perspectives, an extensive corpus of the students’ representations of the course was collected, with triangulation provided by the lecturer and a body of written materials. The data includes interviews, videoed classroom sessions, a written archive of course documents including the course outline, teaching evaluation forms, student assignments and lecturer feedback, email communication between the lecturer and students, and field notes. The students’ representations of the course emphasise English and particular academic activities such as writing assignments and voicing ideas in class which require new skills, new identities, new ways of viewing the world, and new interaction patterns. The other prevalent themes are the teaching and issues related to the self. Contrary to previous work which has tended to represent students as fixed entities challenged by cultural and academic change, the students in this study are found to be engaged in a project of change and the uptake of practices that is characterised by a gradual coming to ‘do’ and ‘be’. The analysis finds that the lecturer’s teaching approach is significant in facilitating both of these efforts. English is a salient factor and the students respond strategically to the discourse that draws together English and academic practice in a formidable regime of expectations and requirements. The analysis details the students’ recognition of and response to this discourse and its associated practices. Above all, the students’ undertakings and engagement in the course are found to be part of a larger project of personal transformation as they harvest opportunities made available in the prevailing context of internationalised higher education. The implications for the provision of international education by Australian universities are discussed.

 
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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:20:33 EST