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Supporting students at the University of Johannesburg. Presentation by Prof Jenny Clarence-Fincham February 2010. Aims. To identify the available services within ADS Think about the language problem and Academic Development in the context of UJ.

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supporting students at the university of johannesburg

Supporting students at the University of Johannesburg

Presentation by Prof Jenny Clarence-Fincham

February 2010


To identify the available services within ADS

Think about the language problem and Academic Development in the context of UJ

centre for academic professional staff development director dr riette de lange extension 3749
Centre for Academic Professional Staff Development: Director Dr Riette de Lange, Extension 3749
  • Teaching and module evaluations
  • Teaching philosophy workshops
  • New staff workshops
  • Research and Development workshops
  • Individual and departmental consultations
  • Assistance with material development
  • Assistance with preparation of teaching portfolios
centre for psychological services and career development
Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development


A wide range of professional and confidential services, ranging from therapeutic services, psycho-educational services, career services, people with disabilities and Work Integrated Learning. 

All services in PsyCaD are completely free to students

therapeutic services
Therapeutic services

General Therapy

Services to Campus Health / Occupational Health (Counselling aspect):

  • Termination of pregnancy

Trauma: 24-hour crisis line – 0800 777 000

Support groups

academic services
Academic Services

Office: People with Disabilities

  • Testing for additional time
  • Assistive technology (Braille, voice recognition etc)

Faculty Liaison

  • F5 and F7
  • Admissions
  • First year Experience and Orientation

Work integrated learning support

career development
Career Development

Career Resource Centres – for job searches, posting of CVs

Career counselling

  • Assessment
  • Testing
  • Counselling
  • Career workshops – CV writing, Interview skills

Graduate Recruitment Programme

  • On-campus talks / career fairs
  • Career portal
contact points
APK – C Ring 1; B5

APB – Impala Court

DFC – House 4, Louis Street

SWC – Block C (Old Science Building)

Contact Points
centre for technologically assisted learning director dr marlena kruger extension 3558
Centre for Technologically Assisted Learning: Director Dr Marlena Kruger Extension 3558

Edu-link – a learning management system

Computer proficiency training Edu-link training for students and staff

Student assistance in computer labs

Individual assistance to staff

academic development centre dr pauline machika extension 4024
Academic Development Centre: Dr Pauline Machika Extension 4024
  • Language development modules
  • Tutor training and development (staff and students)
  • Study skills modules
  • Time management
  • Extended curricula

What do you understand by the language problem in the context of UJ?


Think of a traditional western fairy tale:

  • Name the heroine; describe her
  • describe her mother/aspirations for her daughter
  • describe the heroine’s suitor/s
  • What happens at the end of the story?
  • What are the values that inform the landscape of fairy tale?
My two daughters have always enjoyed traditional fairy tales and can pretty much retell all of the well known ones without any problems. As much as they like these stories though, they much prefer modern day fairy tales which always seem to have an original and comical slant on the stories they are based on. One such story . . . is Prince Cinders by Babette Cole. This is a fabulously funny picture book that tells the story of our hero Prince Cinders who lives with his three big hairy brothers who make him do all the work while they go to the Palace Discos with their girlfriends. Prince Cinders (who is very small and weedy) wishes that he could be big and hairy too and it looks like his wish may just be granted when he is helped by a dirty fairy who comes down the chimney! She attempts to turn a baked bean can into a smart sports car and his raggy clothes into a suit and make the prince big and hairy too. Unfortunately her magic spells do not exactly go according to plan - the car is tiny, the suit is a swim suit and Prince Cinders looks like an enormous hairy monster. However, he does not realise this because when he looks in the mirror, his reflection is a handsome prince! He sets off to the palace disco using his car as a skate board. He meets a pretty princess who thinks that she is about to be attacked by a great big hairy monster. Luckily though, at that very moment, midnight strikes and Prince Cinders is turned back into himself and the princess thinks that he has saved her. He is too embarrassed to be seen as he normally is and runs away but as he does so he leaves his skinny jeans behind leading to a kingdom wide search to find the owner. Eventually Prince Cinders is found and on discovering that the jeans fit, the lovely Princess Lovelypenny proposes to him and they both live happily ever after!
What has happened here and why is this amusing?

What has all this got to do with our students at UJ?

  • Language is a social construct which shapes rather than reflects the social world
  • As long as we have had access to them, we can recognise and predict the patterns and conventions that are common to particular text types and which help to classify them.
  • This applies to all texts, whether a fairytale or a scientific text.
  • We also recognise that conventions have been subverted and that is why the second fairy tale version is humourous.
  • Language embodies values and beliefs – the two versions of the same fairy tale show us different representations of the world through different lexical choices and different sequences.
  • Different disciplines value different things and the language they use embodies this
  • We need to understand far more than the words in the sentence or the grammar – we need also to understand words, conventions and values
The more often we use particular textual conventions, the more they seem to be natural and common sense.

But they are highly constructed which means the

the familiar is not obvious

The world of the university and the languages it speaks are not obvious to our first year students

languages in the world of the university
Languages in the world of the university

information overload

strange languages

Tutorials, lectures, pracs

new disciplines, referencing

plagiarism, institutional silence

admin and academic staff

difficult accents, note-taking

hidden expectations

incomprehensible texts

identify these texts
Identify these texts

Text 1

  • 5 ml of water was added
  • Possible disciplines: Science, Engineering NOT Home Economics, ceramics
  • Values: brevity, clarity, objectivity, measurement, accuracy passive voice, no personal identity markers

Text 2

  • On reflection, it was my “visceral experience” (Butler 2005) of being humiliated as a pupil in a classroom that led to my negative response to the participant.
  • Psychology, Education, Social Science.
  • Reflection as an explicit value, personal, personal experience but evidentially based
There is a fundamental link between “the culture of knowledge and the language by which is maintained and expressed” (Ballard and Clanchy 1988: 7).
the language problem re visited
The “language problem” re-visited
  • Students entering the university for the first time are challenged by not one but many languages
  • This applies to all students but is compounded when students are speakers of English as an additional language
  • “The language problem” extends way beyond grammar and syntax and reaches into the domains of disciplinary knowledge bases and the values underpinning them
  • Students need to be taught by a disciplinary expert who is fluent in the language and expectations of the discipline and can make that language explicit to the novice student
the role of academic development staff
The role of academic development staff

The role of academic development staff is to

  • understand the nature of “the language problem” themselves
  • then to develop that understanding in collaboration with the academic staff

It is only by working alongside each other that these challenges can be addressed and we can develop interventions that result in students acquiring the discourses they need to succeed at university . . . and it is only when we develop a common understanding of the complexities of “the language problem” that we will create an educational context in which this can happen.