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Finding voice in the border space: an examination of the Foundations of Academic Literacy course at Simon Fraser University

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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Composition and writing skills have been identified as a priority in most Canadian post-secondary institutions. Historically composition studies have been linked to English departments and the study of literature; however, as the student base becomes diverse and reasons for pursuing post-secondary education become more instrumental, there is a shift in the way writing instruction is delivered. Simon Fraser University is one of the first institutions in Canada to implement a first year required foundational course in academic literacy across disciplines. In this study I explore the implementation of the Foundations of Academic Literacy (FAL) course with the purpose of understanding the pedagogical strategies used to encourage the development of writer’s voice in students. This study was informed by the unique historical context of Canadian composition education wherein writing has been taught in the belletristic tradition through literature. Drawing on the theoretical concepts of both Vygotsky’s inner speech and Bakhtin’s utterance this study situates the development of writer’s voice at the intersect between internal thought, external speech and the sociocultural tradition. This qualitative case study is informed by narrative inquiry and explores the lived experiences of both the instructors and the students. I asked the research question: How did the instructors encourage the development of voice in their students’ writing? The participants in the study were the undergraduate students and the instructors who were involved with the Foundations of Academic Literacy program at Simon Fraser University. Out of the analysis of my data emerged the themes of community building, personal narrative and student-centred curriculum. Through these themes a greater understanding of the development of voice and self-efficacy in first year students’ writing emerged. An emphasis on building a safe space in the form of a classroom community offered the opportunities for students to take on leadership roles through the sharing of their own stories. Furthermore, using student’s writing as a source of curriculum led to an expressed sense of autonomy and an increase in self-efficacy for the students. This study clearly indicates that by honouring student voice within the classroom students’ sense of belonging and self-efficacy increase.
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