Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Sense of Belonging and First-Year Academic Literacy

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Sense of Belonging and First-Year Academic Literacy

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In this article, we analyze a broad range of factors that affect the sense of belonging of undergraduate students taking a first-year academic literacy course (ALC) at a multicultural, multilingual university in Vancouver, Canada. Students who fail to meet the university's language and literacy requirements are required to pass ALC before they can enrol in writing courses across the disciplines. Consequently, many of those students feel that they have yet to be accepted as fully legitimate members of the university community. We present data from a two-year, mixed-method study, which involved asking students in surveys and interviews about their sense of belonging, as well as analyzing their reflective writing samples for issues related to their sense of belonging. We found that the participants' perceptions of sense of belonging are multi-layered and context-dependent, relating to changes in time and space, classroom pedagogy, and other social, cultural, and linguistic factors. Implications for higher education are discussed.

RÉSUMÉ

Dans cet article, nous analysons un grand éventail de facteurs ayant un effet sur le sentiment d'appartenance d'étudiants en première année d'un premier cycle universitaire qui prennent un cours de littératie académique (CLA) dans une université multilingue et multiculturelle de Vancouver, au Canada. Les étudiants qui ne possèdent pas les préalables linguistiques et littéraires exigés en anglais par l'université doivent d'abord réussir un cours CLA avant de s'inscrire aux cours de rédaction des différentes disciplines. Par conséquent, nombre d'entre eux ont le sentiment de ne pas être encore acceptés comme membres légitimes et à part entière de la communauté universitaire. Nous présentons les données d'une étude adoptant des méthodologies mixtes sur une durée de deux ans dans laquelle nous avons demandé à des étudiants, par le biais d'enquêtes et d'entretiens, d'exprimer leur sentiment d'appartenance. Nous avons également analysé des échantillons de leurs réflexions écrites, dans le but de faire émerger des thèmes en lien avec leur sentiment d'appartenance. Nous avons conclu que la perception des participants envers leur sentiment d'appartenance s'échelonnait sur plusieurs niveaux et dépendait du contexte, selon les changements temporels et spatiaux, la pédagogie adoptée en classe et d'autres facteurs linguistiques, culturels et sociaux. Nous examinons aussi les implications de ces résultats pour l'éducation supérieure.

Many factors affect the transition of students from secondary school to the first year of higher education. For some students, this transition is complicated by institutional requirements that oblige them to take foundational or preparatory courses as a prerequisite to registering in certain core first-year and lower-division courses. In such instances, students may feel they are not accepted as legitimate members of the academic community, which may, in turn, affect their sense of belonging to the institution in which they are studying.

In our study, we look at one such case, Pacific Coast University (PCU), where students with a Grade 12 English score of under 75%, or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of under 6.5 if they are international students with English as an additional language, are required to take a foundational academic literacy course (ALC) during their first year. For such students, ALC is a prerequisite for registering in required lower-division writing in the disciplines courses.1

Pacific Coast University is a multicultural, multilingual university located in Metro Vancouver. Between 800 and 900 students a year take ALC. Classes are made up of students from diverse social, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and from different disciplines across the university. Most ALC students are multilingual; most arrived as immigrants at some stage during their schooling, whereas some were born in Canada. …

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