Decolonizing Academic Literacy in the Canadian Settler University

Grant program: Disrupting Colonialism through Teaching: An Integrated Seminar Series and Grants Program

Grant recipient: Ena Lee, Faculty of Education

Project team: TBD

Timeframe: September 2018 to September 2019

Funding: $5954

Course addressed: FAL X99 – Foundations of Academic Literacy

Description: I want to explore the teaching and learning of academic literacy in the settler university with students whose experiences relating to language and literacy are often punctuated with discourses of remedialism and academic literacy “weakness” versus discourses of strength and contribution to community, institutional, and scholarly growth and knowledge. Public institutions such as the settler university play a significant role in societal regimentation and, in the case of academic literacy courses and post-secondary language and literacy policies, linguistic regimentation specifically (Heller, 2006).

I want to shift the focus of academic literacy from linguistic pragmatism and language awareness (i.e., language as a “skill” or set of skills) to critical linguistic pragmatism and critical language awareness--that is, language as a social and political practice (Benesch, 2001; Fairclough, 2014). I am interested in how the students interpret and interact with this approach. Participation in the ISTLD’s Decolonizing Teaching Grant Program enables me to pursue this teaching and research exploration with Indigenous mentorship and to illuminate how this course (and post-secondary academic literacy courses more generally) and particular enactments of academic literacy practices can be delegitimized by administration, faculty, staff, and students, themselves, via colonial discourses of language and language use within settler institutions.

Benesch, S. (2001). Critical English for academic purposes: Theory, politics, and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Fairclough, N. (2014). Language and power. New York: Routledge.

Heller, M. (2006). Linguistic minorities and modernity: A sociolinguistic ethnography. London: Continuum.

Questions addressed: 

  • In what ways does this re-envisioned delivery of academic literacy differ from more pragmatic deliveries of academic literacy and more “mainstream” academic literacy practices generally?
  • Through their experiences in FAL X99, how might students negotiate more empowered identities as readers, writers, and scholars within the settler university?
  • How does the FAL X99 course impact how students view and understand language as a sociocultural and sociopolitical practice?
  • How are any changes in metalinguistic practice translated into students’ literacy practices by the end of FAL X99?
  • How are any changes in metalinguistic practice translated into the literacy practices students engage in post-FAL X99 (i.e., investigating how students continue to shape their academic literacies and identities within the settler university beyond the FAL X99 course)?

Knowledge sharing:

Possible presentation(s) & workshop(s) from among the following:

  • Faculty of Education (FAL X99 instructional team; Office of Indigenous Education; Faculty Council meeting)
  • Office for Aboriginal Peoples
  • Aboriginal University Preparation Program
  • Student Learning Commons
  • Teaching and Learning Centre
  • Writing-Intensive Learning (W-consultants, W-courses, W-instructors)