Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society: Transition and Transformation

Edited by: Albert Weideman, John Read, Theo du Plessis

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Multilingual Matters
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South African universities face major challenges in meeting the needs of their students in the area of academic language and literacy. The dominant medium of instruction in the universities is English and, to a much lesser extent, Afrikaans, but only a minority of the national population are native speakers of these languages. Nine other languages can be media of instruction in schools, which makes the transition to tertiary education difficult enough in itself for students from these schools. The focus of this book is on procedures for assessing the academic language and literacy levels and needs of students, not in order to exclude students from higher education but rather to identify those who would benefit from further development of their ability in order to undertake their degree studies successfully. The volume also aims to bring the innovative solutions designed by South African educators to a wider international audience.

What is academic literacy and how can it best be measured? The authors of this excellent edited collection draw on 20+ years of research and practice to highlight the challenges involved in assessing the language and literacy needs of students destined for university education in multilingual South Africa. Their insights will resonate with academics and educators around the world catering for increasingly diverse student populations.

Catherine Elder, University of Melbourne, Australia

This invaluable collection of engaging chapters is a must-read for practitioners, graduate students, and researchers who seek to expand their knowledge of assessment literacy in multilingual societies in and beyond South Africa. The editors' choice of conceptual foundations of academic literacy assessment at pre-tertiary and tertiary education as the themes of the volume is timely and insightful.

Vahid Aryadoust, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Language ability, language assessment to determine ability levels, and improving academic literacy in a multilingual tertiary context are complex issues. This book establishes what all these actually comprise. The quality of the work and the standing of the contributors combine to give us an informed view of this exciting and developing field in South Africa. Read and enjoy!

Wannie Carstens, North-West University, South Africa

[This book] is an excellent collection of contemporary research studies into the assessment of academic language literacy in South Africa [...] Its extensive and thought-provoking coverage of the issues faced by education systems, institutions and individuals within them will serve as a valuable resource as they plan the road ahead in this rapidly changing field. 

Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 2021

Albert Weideman is Professor of Applied Language Studies and Research Fellow at the University of the Free State, South Africa.

John Read is Professor Emeritus at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Theo du Plessis is Professor of Language Management at the University of the Free State, South Africa.

Introduction. John Read and Colleen Du Plessis: A Global Perspective on the South African Context

Part I: Conceptual Foundations: Policy, Construct, Learning Potential

Chapter 1. Theo du Plessis: Institutional Language Policy and Academic Literacy in South African Higher Education

Chapter 2. Albert Weideman: A Skills-neutral Approach to Academic Literacy Assessment

Chapter 3. Tobie van Dyk, Piet Murre and Herculene Kotzé: Does One Size Fit All? Some Considerations for Test Translation

Chapter 4. Alan Cliff: The Use of Mediation and Feedback in a Standardised Test of Academic Literacy: Theoretical and Design Considerations

Part II: Assessing Academic Literacy at Secondary School Level

Chapter 5. Colleen du Plessis: Basic Education and Academic Literacy: Conflicting Constructs in the South African National Senior Certificate (NSC) Language Examination

Chapter 6. Jo-Mari Myburgh-Smit and Albert Weideman: How Early Should We Measure Academic Literacy? The Usefulness of an Appropriate Test of Academic Literacy for Grade 10 Students

Chapter 7. Sanet Steyn: Pathways to Parity between Parallel Tests of Language Ability: Lessons from a Project

Part III: Assessing Discipline-specific Needs at University

Chapter 8. Kabelo Sebolai: Generic Academic Literacy Testing: A Logical Precursor for Faculty-specific Language Teaching and Assessment

Chapter 9. Avasha Rambiritch, Linda Alston and Marien Graham: Diagnosing with Care: The Academic Literacy Needs of Theology Students

Chapter 10. Laura Drennan: Assessing Readiness to Write: the Design of an Assessment of Preparedness to Present Multimodal Information (APPMI)

Postscript. Tobie van Dyk: What the Data Tell us: An Overview of Language Assessment Research in South Africa's Multilingual Context

Postgraduate, Research / Professional
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