Knowledge building via Academic Reading Circles on an English for General Academic Purposes pre-sessional course.

  • Susie Cowley Haselden

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The field of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) focuses on the teaching of academic language and skills to enable access to and success within higher education. In the UK context EAP courses are primarily either in-sessional (taught alongside academic studies) or pre sessional (taught before academic studies commence in order to satisfy an institution’s language entry requirements). Whether teaching in- or pre-sessional courses, there exists in EAP a tension between teaching EAP for specific or general purposes. This study is concerned with the latter. However, neither strand of EAP addresses the acquisition of academic knowledge as an essential element for enabling students, especially postgraduate students, to succeed in the higher education context.

    In order to explore how EAP could include this element of knowledge acquisition, this thesis explores the enactment of Academic Reading Circles (ARC) for the purposes of acquiring theory knowledgeability on an EGAP pre-sessional course for postgraduate students. Theory knowledgeability is defined as the ability to not only know what theory is and how it is used in postgraduate study, but to gain this knowledge through the learning of a specific transdisciplinary theory. Theory knowledgeability is identified in this study as a threshold concept. As such, the process of acquiring theory knowledgeability will be uncomfortable for students as it will require a transformation of knowledge and knower practices.
    Through triangulation of ARC discussion data, learner diaries, and semi-structured interviews, this study reveals that a carefully constructed series of ARCs are a purposeful way of cumulative knowledge building and afford students the opportunity to acquire the kind of knowledge and to become the kind of knower valorised in most UK master’s level studies. The data are analysed using the Legitimation Code Theory dimensions of Specialization and Semantics. Specialization enables the uncovering of knowledge and knower practices as postgraduates progress through the ARC series. Semantics affords insight into the knowledge practices that enable successful acquisition of theory knowledgeability.

    This study then considers the implications for the future of EAP pedagogy.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSheena Gardner (Supervisor) & Marina Orsini-Jones (Supervisor)

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