Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Academic Literacy and Cultural Familiarity: Developing and Assessing Academic Literacy Resources for Chinese Students

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Academic Literacy and Cultural Familiarity: Developing and Assessing Academic Literacy Resources for Chinese Students

Article excerpt


Academic literacy is a complex, multi-component, multi-skill concept in tertiary education which, if all the skills are taught, should help address issues of academic dishonesty and plagiarism. Plagiarism has been an ongoing and growing global problem for many academics (Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, 2006; Carroll, 2004; MacDonald & Carroll, 2006). In recent years the increased incidence of plagiarism has been attributed to increased internet accessibility (Devlin, 2002) and behaviours such as copying and pasting, colluding and sharing writing, which have been made easier with technology. Plagiarism can be viewed as an outcome of misunderstanding or poor application of facets of academic literacy, such as critical thinking, critical reading, value of evidence, content knowledge, and expertise in academic writing. The practice of academic literacy skills may vary with educational and cultural backgrounds which also play contributing roles in the development of a student's understanding of and attitudes towards academic integrity.

With the advent of transnational education, universities in Australia have developed relationships with offshore universities, many of which are located in China (Department of Education Science & Training [DEST], 2005). The teaching arrangements differ with each relationship but one strategy is for the early years of the qualification to be taught in China and the later years to be taught in Australia. The transition to both studying and living in Australia is complex and students thinking of undertaking study in Australia should undertake pre-departure academic orientation as well as on-arrival and as required "just-in-time" academic support (Dixon & Henderson, 2005).

The relationship between the Melbourne based university and the Beijing based university is ten years old. Most of these particular Chinese students complete all of their Australian qualification in Beijing; however, each semester a small number make the journey to Melbourne to immerse themselves in the western culture. In either case there is a need to develop the academic literacy skills as they are prioritised and identified in the Australian qualification context. An innovative culturally appropriate approach to teaching using e-learning materials which deals with academic literacy may help to build the academic literacy of international students coming to Australia while also being useable and useful in China and elsewhere for those students seeking a western style education. Such a discussion about teaching practices which work or not and mutual professional development form the basis of an annual teaching and learning conference in China between the Australian university and its Chinese partner. This has been regarded as a very successful collaborative approach for introducing to each other new teaching and learning objects and strategies (Henderson, 2010; Henderson & Pearce, 2011).

Literature Review

The project was informed by several bodies of enquiry including academic honesty and academic literacies, constructivist knowledge development, acculturation and assimilation, and the Elaboration Likelihood Model.

Academic dishonesty is an ongoing problem experienced across all higher education institutions. It is clear that plagiarism occurs in Australian higher education and that it appears to be widespread (Devlin, 2002; O'Regan, 2006). The literature notes that not enough has been done to improve levels of academic literacy and reduce academic dishonesty and that there is no universal approach or solutions to the problem. On the other hand, definitions of what actually constitutes academic literacy and plagiarism vary, leading to confusion and misunderstanding of these concepts by students (Ercegovac & Richardson, 2004). The authors' experience suggests that for students academic honesty is an archaic, irrelevant academic convention that does not apply in the "real world" (Brimble & Stevenson-Clarke, 2005). …

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